With Wi-Fi, anyone can be a communications provider

Written by on July 31, 2015 in Opinion with 1 Comment

Contagion of virusAs if it wasn’t enough for operators to see the access network for the IoT slipping away from them, others are moving in to their core territory as well. One example is an experiment from a hotel chain that has proved so popular they are rolling it out as we speak. You check in, they give you a portable Wi-Fi hotspot and you can surf and share as you travel around the city. The free Wi-Fi is being offered by hotel chain Room Mate in several cities throughout Europe and now the US, and means an end to those hated roaming charges.

This, of course, hurts operators on two fronts. First, the access to the network is via Wi-Fi. Second, the operator does not get any of those cushy roaming charges. Even though they are on the way out, this kind of innovation will speed up roaming’s demise. And possibly operators too.

If a (reasonably unknown) hotel chain can come up with a solution like that then who knows what else is on the drawing boards of companies of all shapes and sizes. Presumably other hotel chains will follow suit, or at least copy the idea in some form. Trains and buses, even subway systems now have Wi-Fi, even if it is still slow and unspectacular. In some cases operators are offering Wi-Fi hot spots themselves, in a bid to keep up, in others, partnerships are emerging.

Even quite unlikely entities are innovating. The National Broadband Network (NBN) in Australia, whose mission (as it says on the label) is to roll out a national broadband network is one example. What it is doing is almost the reverse of what you would expect. It is using ‘fixed’ TD-LTE to provide broadband for small remote communities, with receivers fixed to each house and the base station fixed nearby. And it is fantastic, speeds of up to 50 megabits per second on the downlink and 20 Mbps on the uplink are being achieved, largely because people are not on the move. In fact, NBN’s 4G fixed-wireless network has topped a comparison of 22 wireless broadband networks across the globe.

And then one has to turn one’s attention to the ‘A’ Team. What, one has to wonder, is Google thinking. Or Apple. Or Amazon. Or Facebook. Almost every week, one or more of them breaks news that brings them closer to the core of communications. Just yesterday, John Legere said, while presenting continuing subscriber growth, ‘in several years, we will think it was completely humorous that we believed the wireless industry was four carriers that needed to be protected.’

More importantly, he added that ‘companies like Google and Comcast are going to enter the wireless market in the next few years, and T-Mobile is open to partnering or allying with them.’ This sounds uncannily like the small kid trying to make friends with the big cool kid or risk being left out of the cool gang.

Let us hope, for Legere’s sake, and the sake of the operator community, that Google and others want to make friends with the small kids. If not, then Google and other ‘A’ Team members might easily take over the playground.

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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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