Beware Loon – it could just be a modern day Trojan horse

Written by on October 13, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

Trojan horse and LoonIf telcos, i.e. communications service providers (CSPs), think that their strictly regulated, licensed and protected operating environments are immune from serious competition in the near future, they may need to think again, and quickly.

Just take a look at an even more heavily-regulated industry, taxis, to see what I mean. Innovation, clever use of technology and legislative loopholes that we never thought existed have provided well-funded aggressors, armed with teams of legal eagles and unlimited budgets, a means to ‘break in’ – á la Uber.

And if you throw in the potential of mass infiltration, much like the current illegal immigrant crisis in Europe, you will get a gist of just how useless ancient laws, artificial barriers and poor defences really are. Excuse me for making that comparison but it is, effectively, the closest analogy one could make. Just because things have been a certain way for one hundred years it doesn’t mean they will stay that way for the next ten, or even two years.

Sheer numbers of supporters for new technology, when it arrives (and it surely will), may be tempted by low-cost or even free communications links provided by digital players that simply want them as fodder for marketing of services and products.

Loony idea?

We are already seeing the potential of weird ideas like Google’s Project Loon. A network of balloons floating through the stratosphere fitted a reflecting plate in its bulbous antenna design, which will capture signals even when the transmission path is at an extremely obtuse angle, effectively using unlicensed spectrum to get to the masses.

Gigaom reckoned Google was engineering a mobile network in reverse – “Instead of having a fixed grid of towers among which millions of subscribers are moving, Loon will have a fixed grid of subscribers while the ‘towers’ move from place to place overhead.”

Stories have surfaced that Google is approaching CSPs offering to lease them the Loon technology – but why would they if they can roll out a network themselves, and mark my words, they will do it themselves!

You can almost guarantee that they are also either investing in or monitoring any new technology that will make better use of unlicensed spectrum that could make them a pseudo CSP without regulatory restrictions CSPs are currently burdened by.

And because their services will be offered at low or no cost, they will not be burdened by any of the legacy current CSPs have – no need for billing, no need for customer care, no need for big investment in network infrastructure.

CSPs might think they will be the backbone providers for the new technologies they won’t own, but they may get a shock there as well. Google already owns and operates its own vast network of dark fiber around the globe to connect its data centers, speed up search, and lower its cost of streaming billions of videos a month on YouTube.

With Google Fiber it took its first steps in connecting that fiber backbone to consumer’s homes. Hmmm, shouldn’t too hard to plug those Loon balloons, or a tethered version, into the same network, surely.

Oh, and let’s not forget Google’s Project Fi, its mobile service launched in the USA with the help of both T-Mobile and Sprint. Fi customers will have access to both networks, but Google’s service will intelligently switch between them and Wi-Fi to maintain strong reception. I doubt that will generate much revenue for the networks as the technology uses them only when Wi-Fi signals are not up to scratch.

It would be unfair just to single out Google as a major threat to CSPs worldwide because there will be a plethora of smaller regional ‘attackers’ that will hope to be disruptive enough to either win market share or be acquired – either by the CSPs they are trying to antagonize or by the Google’s of the world hoping to put “one more brick in the wall.”

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .

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