Wi-Fi Calling for Change

Posted on April 13, 2015

By giving customers Wi-Fi calling capabilities mobile operators are showing they understand that a truly comprehensive wireless connectivity service can only be created through the integration of cellular and Wi-Fi access.

Welcome to Connectivity World Congress…?

Posted on March 5, 2015

Someone visiting this show for the first time, with no preconceived ideas, might well find themselves wondering why it’s still called “Mobile World Congress”. Such a variety of industries, applications and activities are on display here in Barcelona that the overarching theme is open to interpretation. MWC has had several identity changes as it has evolved over the years. Back in the 90’s it was known as GSM World Congress, reflecting a strict technology alignment. With the arrival of UMTS it became 3GSM World Congress in 2001. And six years later, as mobile operators worldwide signalled their intent to converge on a single cellular standard for 4G, it was given the name we still use. These changes follow a narrative of expansion and inclusivity. UMTS brought with it brand new operators with no 2G legacy, hence the subtle but important addition of that ‘3’. The end of a far more significant industry era was reflected in the next change, as the sometimes bitterly opposed GSM and CDMA camps laid down their arms on the common ground of LTE. With each new technology came more options and more operators. In 2015 it feels like the time is right for another change….

Connectivity First: An Operator Census

Posted on March 4, 2015

Mobile operators are not alone in providing wireless connectivity. And as end users’ connectivity options become more diverse, mobile operators must seek out new ways to keep themselves relevant. Mobile World Congress is where the mobile operator community convenes to search its soul. To collectively address the big existential questions: What are we? What are we going to be? In the good old days, when competition existed only within the community itself, imagination was the sole constraint on discussions. In 2015, a new reality has entered the building. You can answer those big questions in many ways. A mobile operator is at once a legally obligated licensee, engineering organization, retailer, distribution channel, billing engine, customer service operation, brand, wholesale dealer, and more. Many have wider aspirations, their sights set on advertising revenues or the Internet of Things. Ask a typical end user, though, and they’ll probably get right to the nub of it, telling you a mobile operator is a company they pay for wireless connectivity. So, how does the operator landscape look today? GSMA counts almost 800 mobile operator members, which shakes out at roughly one operator to every ten million people on the planet. It seems like a…

Connectivity First: Mapping The Landscape

Posted on March 3, 2015

The connectivity landscape is complex and crowded, with huge variation between indoor and outdoor locations. As a real-world walk-through shows, end users need help to navigate their way through it. How do you paint the Connectivity Landscape? For decades mobile operators have relied on coverage maps, which necessarily simplify a complex reality into an easily digestible picture, presented as evidence of available connectivity. Their usage has been sustained by the rollout of every new generation of network technology, with islands of 3G superimposed on saturated 2G maps, and the process repeated with the introduction of LTE. Unfortunately, from day one, these maps aggravated those end users whose experience of connectivity contradicted the pictures they’d been given. Intended to market network strengths, coverage maps simultaneously exposed network weaknesses. The biggest problem with these maps, of course, is that they ignore an entire dimension of the user’s real world. The connectivity landscape they depict is flat and featureless. In life, that landscape is crammed with buildings that create havoc for smartphone users, and the mobile operators trying to keep them connected. These maps hide literally millions of uncomfortable truths beneath their blanket cellular coverage. Provision of indoor coverage is the most daunting…

Introducing Connectivity First

Posted on February 25, 2015

It has long been said in the mobile industry that end users want service, not technology. But because smartphone connectivity has always been delivered by the cellular network, the separation of service and technology has never really been tested. In 2014, with the arrival of Wi-Fi First, which demonstrated an alternative service model, things began to change. In 2015, as cable operators and internet giants are realizing the benefits they might be able to bring to their core businesses with a wireless connectivity offering, the change is accelerating. These new players don’t see connectivity as restricted to the cellular network, they see it as deliverable across a range of networks; cellular, domestic Wi-Fi, commercial Wi-Fi and amenity Wi-Fi. This model of service provision, rather than being Wi-Fi First, or Mobile First, is Connectivity First. It is a recognition that no single technology in isolation can deliver the optimum connectivity experience to the end user. I believe it is a direct response to the entrenched thinking that technology is more important than service. The reality is that the emergence of a Wi-Fi First movement committed to disruption was actively facilitated by the mobile operator community’s tentative approach to Wi-Fi. By thinking…

It's a Hotel Wi-Fi Free-For-All

Posted on February 19, 2015

Google “meaning of life” and you get 408 million search results. Google “free hotel Wi-Fi” and you get 645 million. Clearly hotel Wi-Fi is important to a lot of people. Studies into its availability and quality abound, catering to an international clientele that increasingly factors Wi-Fi into its choice of hotel. Specialist websites name and shame the hotels that fall short, crowd-sourcing performance data from guests all over the world. Consumer money-saving sites urge holidaymakers to seek out the hotels that get them online for free, and journalists in the financial press rail against the hotel Wi-Fi charges they encounter, reflecting a common irritation for their globe-trotting readership. Indeed cost is by far the biggest issue associated with hotel Wi-Fi, affecting everyone from backpackers to business travelers. Smaller hotel chains and independent players have been offering free Wi-Fi for some time; it is the large incumbents that have been reluctant to do so. Hotels have to pay to provide it, they have argued, so they are entitled to their surcharge. But hotels are greatly outnumbered by their guests, and those guests are delivering their judgement at volume and en masse: Wi-Fi should be free. A study by Hotels.com last year found that free Wi-Fi was the most desirable in-room…

New Wireless Service Offers Could be Real Head-Turners

Posted on January 27, 2015

The Wall Street Journal published a story this week promising that the wireless industry business model is about to be turned on its head. The story built on the WSJ’s breaking coverage of an anticipated US MVNO launch by Google, which is expected to incorporate Wi-Fi into the connectivity mix, with the news that US cable TV and broadband provider Cablevision will shortly debut a Wi-Fi only smartphone service, Freewheel, priced at $9.95/month. Exciting, disruptive stuff. To date much of the disruption in the provision of wireless access has been driven by small companies; which is what you’d expect. And, again unsurprisingly, it’s easy enough for the big boys to dismiss these companies as trivial at worst, and plucky (if misguided) upstarts at best. You can’t say the same for the likes of Google and Cablevision. These are organizations with the kind of clout that can be neither dismissed nor ignored. Their brands, their customer relationships, their reach, their complementary service suites… Traditional operators should be worried. But, hang on a minute: What do these guys know about providing wireless service? Google and Cablevision haven’t spent years building expertise in wireless service provision, investing in spectrum, deploying, operating and optimizing complex…

Location, Location, Location

Posted on January 8, 2015

Talk to any estate agent or realtor (depending where you live) and they’ll tell you that location is the most important thing when it comes to selling property. Is it a nice area? Is it easy to get to? Does it have good access? Decent restaurants nearby? If you’ve got the right location, you’ll have eager buyers queuing up, quite literally, at your door. What the agent won’t talk to you about is security. They won’t ask you about your window locks, how long you think it might take to kick that nice shiny front door off its hinges, or (unless you’re in Hollywood) whether you’ve got a panic room with a ten-inch steel casing in your basement. That doesn’t mean security’s unimportant. Far from it; some people might hark back to the days when you could leave your door unlocked without concern, but nobody really wants to test human nature like that today. Security is very important to home buyers but it’s just one element of an entire package that gets weighed as people contemplate tying themselves down to a 30-year mortgage. But it’s always location that comes out on top. When you’ve moved in, and you do start…