August 20, 2015 — One of the best ways to feel the pulse of a segment is to see who’s spending money on it. While Wi-Fi is taking some time to deploy, the industry is showing some promising financial and strategic data.
A couple of examples include the deals that iPass and Devicescape; and Boingo and Sprint just Inked. The iPass and Devicescape deal is for Wi-Fi roaming hotspots. Supposedly, this will create the “world’s largest commercial Wi-Fi network,” with 50 million hotspots. Under the new agreement between the two companies, iPass is essentially combining its aggregated Wi-Fi network with Devicescape’s aggregated Wi-Fi network, thereby more than doubling the number of hotspots iPass currently offers.
On a side note, it is interesting that iPass is a pay for service model (although, perhaps there is a value to real Wi-Fi roaming).
Sprint’s deal is a multi-year Wi-Fi offloading agreement with Boingo to offload, seamlessly, its customers’ data traffic to Boingo’s Wi-Fi networks at 35 major U.S. airports. This seems to be in line with Sprint’s evolving strategy to make Wi-Fi an integral part of its network as part of an effort to improve network performance.
These are real signs, not “intends to” or “is in talks with” or “is looking at” types of the diatribes we hear so often. As they say, put your money where your mouth is.
Now that the 2014 MWC is behind us, a good indicator of what is going to happen in the next year and what is staging in various segments of the mobile wireless arena can be mined from who was there, what went on and what was popular.
One of the main focuses, to no one’s surprise was a small cells. There were significant indicators and a constant buzz about where small cells are going and what they are going to accomplish. So look for vendors and MNOs to start seeing small cells as a growth and revenue opportunity, especially once carrier-grade Wi-Fi and seamless Wi-Fi roaming come onto the scene.
Indoor networks got a lot of attention. Of note, SpiderCloud, which has for some time now been on the leading edge of small cell networks, has intensified its effort in working with Vodafone to expand, further, Vodafone’s densification/in-building coverage effort.
Siklu has come to the table with a small cell backhaul solution in the 60 GHz band. This is a cutting-edge technology for street-level small cell deployments, for connecting them to the enterprise. The Siklu solution was designed for easy installation and minimal setup issues by innovative technologies such as self-alignment and zero touch configuration where commissioning and provisioning is done remotely from a centralized location.
Alcatel-Lucent’s Mike Schable, vice president of its small cell division, said it is doing significant, commercial small cell pilot deployments. According to Schable, the OEM now at the stage where “we just have to make sure we have our playbooks and recipes fine-tuned for wide scale deployment,” with the commercial pilots.
Much of the small cell activity was around 3G indoor (Enterprise) and LTE outdoor (Urban). LTE HetNets are seen as a longer term solution for capacity. Residential femtocells still have a place in the market especially where integrated into a broadband modem or set-top box, driven by a different business case than before.
Virtual Wi-Fi has arrived. Devicescape has a platform called Amenity Wi-Fi networks designed for mobile operators. The latest layer to this platform is termed by the company as “always best connected” capability. According to Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, “This is a way for mobile operators to integrate their traditional mobile network alongside of Wi-Fi networks.”
“Always Best Connected” is a second-generation Wi-Fi offload platform that brings in the concept of policies, which allow decisions to be made by the system as to which network to be used by the subscriber (4G\LTE or Wi-Fi.)
Coming soon to your small cell home – MiFi. Novatel, in conjunction with Verizon Wireless, has a new platform for the home called MiFi. It is a next generation home router replacement that does simultaneous voice and data. It integrates VoIP, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, and the standard Ethernet connection for Internet access. The device is also portable so it can be taken along on business trip or vacations to establish a femtocell network anywhere.
There is of course, lots more but these are some highlights.
— Ernest Worthman, Executive Editor, Small Cells magazine