December 11, 2014 — Possibly the most disruptive wireless technology, Wi-Fi calling, officially became a trend in September and the victims may be DAS and small cell deployments.
Apple’s inclusion of Wi-Fi calling in the debut of its iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 and 6+ in September and its availability in the Samsung Galaxy series phones got the ball rolling. T-Mobile announced its support for Wi-Fi calling and began advertising a free Personal CellSpot for the user’s home. AT&T announced that it will support Wi-Fi calling in 2015.
Think of the possible impact on the wireless infrastructure business. For years, wireless carriers have been deploying femtocells in homes and offices for customers who have poor coverage. They wouldn’t be needed anymore.
“Largely, people will churn off a network if they have poor service at home or at work, both of which probably have pretty good Wi-Fi service. There is a huge vertical market for DAS and small cell that – poof – goes way,” said Jim Parker, AT&T spokesman.
What does that do to future wireless infrastructure deployments? Carriers may only deploy in-building wireless systems in situations where they need capacity, such as stadiums, airports and shopping malls.
“It could be disruptive for the entire wireless infrastructure industry market. Wi-Fi plus cellular is a formidable solution,” Parker said. “We will still see DAS and small cells deploy but only in the most capacity-dense environments. Right now we are deploying them everywhere.”
Currently, there is almost insatiable demand for in-building wireless solutions, but carriers don’t have the funds to provide coverage and capacity in every home and office building. This may solve that problem.
J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of AGL Link and AGL Small Cell Link newsletters.