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Wi-Fi, cellular tug-of-war begins

Posted: 19 Oct 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Bluestein & Associates  Wi-Fi  cellular  smartphone  base station 

We have seen it coming. Now that the problem of cellular congestion can no longer be ignored, companies are taking advantage of the next best alternative: Wi-Fi. Competition has taken off and it's promising some disruptive opportunities. In fact, one startup is developing smartphones and consumer access points that aims to pay users a piece of the revenues it gets from offloading cellular calls on to its proprietary 5GHz network.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Vijay Sammeta, the CIO of San Jose called for vendors to develop Wi-Fi phones for the homeless. "What a powerful concept to give a homeless person a Wi-Fi calling smartphone that can charge by solar power, albeit slowly, and has data about city services stored on it, suddenly we have transformed that person's life," said Sammeta.

Wi-Fi calling is "not quite there in capabilities such as roaming, but it may be carrier grade in the next five years," said Whitey Bluestein, principal of consulting firm Bluestein & Associates LLC.

Vijay Sammeta

Sammeta said Wi-Fi calling will be inevitable to handle urban demand in places such as Times Square. "It is an amazing and powerful concept that has to happen for density and equity reasons," he said.

However he warned free metro Wi-Fi services are not really free. "If you are ever in a convention centre that has free Wi-Fi, look at the user agreement, we monetise it on the back end because the access points and back-ends aren't free," he said.

Cities large and small are getting into the Wi-Fi game. Earlier this year, Los Angeles put out a request for proposals for a wireless network that would cover its notorious sprawl.

The city wants a net completed within five years with at least a Gb/s throughput and a basic level of service free. Proposals are due by November 12.

Space Station

The Space Station includes a smartphone dock, a Wi-Fi router, MP3 player and a full Windows 10 PC available from World Global Network by early next year.

For its part, World Global Network has developed a smartphone that aims to move calls from a third party carrier network to its own unlicensed 5GHz net. It will use 802.11u and Hotspot 2.0 standards on its so-called MCell 5G network.

Users buy a sleek access point the company designed that acts as a home base station to make smartphone connections over Wi-Fi. The company promises to give users a discount on their $12/month bills depending on the extent traffic is routed on to its MCell network.

Such Wi-Fi services could disrupt existing cellular carriers, particularly with the advent of LTE services over unlicensed bands such as 5GHz.

LTE and Wi-Fi proponents are sparing over spectrum at the FCC. The potential for disruption will increase when true 5G networks are turned on starting in 2020 because they will support an even wider range of licensed and unlicensed bands.

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