Wi-Fi is the answer, the question is…

Written by on October 30, 2014 in Opinion with 0 Comments

It seems entirely feasible that in a few years time Wi-Fi will be the primary access method and cellular will be a back up. Most research houses predict that the volume of data will keep 4G, 5G and presumably 6G networks congested for the foreseeable future.

According to Cisco and their Visual Networking index, Busy hour traffic in 2017 will be 865 Tbps – the equivalent of 720 million people streaming an HD video simultaneously. That is a lot of data. YouTube is already streaming six billion hours of video every month. That’s a lot of video.

It makes a ton of sense. As mobile operators try to keep up with ‘X’G via LTE, presumably the fixed line networks are freeing up. So why not throw some of the burden back into the fibre-optic investment? Customers do not care which access mechanism they use as long as it is an access mechanism that works.

It also makes sense, as Tony Poulos pointed out recently across at BillingViews, that some operators are rolling out Wi-Fi in order to keep customers by simply enhancing the customer experience. Ubiquitous access by whatever method means happy customers – as long as the handovers work, of course.

The next section of the community to get excited about Wi-Fi – ironically – are the Cable operators. Wi-Fi, believes Cablevision and Comcast, will help Cable operators offset the huge threat to their business in the form of ‘OTT’ players – as per YouTube’s six billion hours a month mentioned above.

So, many different companies are suddenly betting on Wi-Fi. How it will work, no one really knows yet. Does a Cable operator roll out hotspots across the land that sit next to those owned by the phone companies, both fixed and mobile? Should the hotspots be shared?

One example of innovation that does spring to mind was the one presented by Peter Cochrane last year, when he described the case of Jersey, the small island off the coast of France but owned by the British (just in case we need to invade). He persuaded the management of Jersey Telecom to invest in fibre to the home (FTTH), with Cable headends on each line and an open 3G hub built in. It was, he said, cheaper than upgrading copper and, as a result, people on holiday on the island have open 3G almost wherever they go.

While the use case of a small foggy island between the UK and France may make you smile, it is certainly food for thought. In the next few years we will all be thinking very differently about many things. We will have to.

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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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