Ding dong, Wi-Fi calling – beware bill shock

Written by on October 6, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

1Apparently when it comes to Wi-Fi, it is like the Wild West out there. A recent study, reported by Telecoms.com, cites Xcellair, a company whose mission is to maximise the mobile mish-mash of networks for mobile operators. They found, refreshingly in their own offices, that Wi-Fi as an intelligent offload technology is deeply flawed. It will, they have calculated, cost mobile operators close to $18 billion over five years in lost revenue.

It is easy to make headlines with figures in the billions that go, or leave, operators’ bottom lines. What is not calculable, but is perhaps even more expensive is that the customer experience is also at stake, and that brings churn into the equation. If customers are trying to watch Netflix and the Wi-Fi is catching interference from 4G, TV, satellite, the connected toaster or whatever, it does not compensate. (See here for a video of just how many different radio signals you live amongst). It is, says, Xcellair, simply not intelligent enough, unlike carefully designed, licensed, standardised and regulated 4G networks.

Their survey ‘revealed that 92% of access points do not adjust their operating frequency, no matter how badly performance is degraded by interference. It also found that on average, two channels worth of bandwidth is unused at any given time, despite congestion and interference.’

Thus the $18 billion in lost revenue.

W-Fi offload seems a great idea. Wi-Fi calling seems a great idea, and many operators believe it is a great idea.

But it does seem that there needs to be a serious collaborative effort to add intelligence, standards and interoperability into the chaos that is Wi-Fi for it to work as customers now expect high-speed mobile networks to work.

Network operators are not the only ones who need to pause for thought with Wi-Fi alternatives.

Apple’s new Wi-Fi Assist brings the reverse problem. As Jonathon Gordon points out here, Wi-Fi Assist is automatically switched on, and when your iOS device thinks that the Wi-Fi is not good enough for the job, it will automatically switch to a cellular network near you. This means if you are watching Netflix in the comfort of your own home, do not think that your device will not decide that the Wi-Fi is rubbish (see above), switch you to a 4G network and, without meaning to, give you some serious bill shock.

The Wi-Fi mess needs to be sorted, before the Wild West edges into our comfortable, ordered world of mobile networks and it ends up being a stumbling block, not a building block.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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