November 12, 2014 — TrueNet Communications designs and builds broadband fiber networks for the major wireless operators, but that is not what excites Frank Del Col, company president and CEO. He cites the aggressive fiber and Wi-Fi rollouts to homes, cell sites, buildings and hotels of the major MSOs, such us Cox Cable, Time Warner and Comcast, and now Google as the potential game changers in the wireless world.
“It’s fiber to the X, everywhere. We cannot get enough designers. [Cable companies and Google] are pushing fiber everywhere. As soon as the fiber networks are built, they ask us to come back and overlay citywide Wi-Fi networks,” Del Col told an audience at the Dallas AGL Conference in October.
TrueNet Communications has deployed fiber and Wi-Fi in several large cities, which have thousands of nodes so far. In two cities, the company has already gone back and upgraded the Wi-Fi to gigabit speeds and added thousands of additional nodes. In Phoenix, for example, the system began with a deployment of 1,400 access points last year, and it has since been upgraded to 3,400 gigabit access points.
“We were hired in multiple markets by the major MSOs to design and build their fiber networks,” Del Col said. “As soon as those networks have enough scale or density in the marketplace, they are coming right back in to use their right of way and outside plant to deploy indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi on top of it.”
The initial goal for the cable and Internet giants is to reach the customer handset. Comcast’s Xfinity platform, for example, not only provides Wi-Fi at home but also anywhere that the customer has a Wi-Fi hookup. It is a way to both upsell the consumer and also hold on to them as a customer, Del Col said.
“They haven’t even begun to deploy the other products that will sit on the fiber. If you think they are just sitting on that fiber, think again. They have products lined up,” Del Col told AGL Small Cell Link. “MSOs want to reach out and touch as many smart phones and tablets as possible — anything that has mobility — and bring that data onto their network. What’s next? VoIP [Voice Over IP]. They want to handle the voice calls as well as the data.”
Del Col said the actions of the cable companies and Google in the Wi-Fi space should be watched closely by the wireless industry.
“There is a message there. They are not following down the same path as the wireless carriers and dealing with spectrum and building macro and micro cells,” he said. “If Google wanted to buy AT&T or any other carrier, they could, but they are not doing that. They are deploying fiber everywhere.”
Del Col said the wireless companies are not fighting the advances of the Wi-Fi networks because they need them to offload data from their overburdened networks. But at some point, the cable companies and Google may become competitors to the wireless operators.
“Sooner or later, the economics will show them that [not fighting the cable/Internet Wi-Fi play] was probably a mistake. Then the carriers will have to learn how to work with the MSOs. That is my take,” he said.
J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of AGL Small Cell Link and AGL Link.