Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Can Wi-Fi Marginalize Mobile Operators?

I'm paraphrasing in the title, but Ian Scales' article at Telecom TV titled "Are mobile operators in danger of losing their 'default' status" was an intriguing tag line which hooked me in. smoking_hut.jpg

The premise is that a phone vendor like Apple may decide to simply make Wi-Fi the preferred connection method and leave the macro network as the fall-back status. The article likens the situation to the current 'no smoking' bans in many countries.

Cellular service is relegated to the places where you can smoke... in your car, outside on the street, in the park. But it's not available in the places where you spend most of your time, at home, in the office, in the coffee shop (or pub, depending on your inclination...). [Ed note: a tip of the hat for that analogy... very clever!]

Regardless of the cleverness of the analogy, I must disagree. I don't think this will be the case any time soon. Operators deliver tremendous value through the macro network. And while Wi-Fi is 'everywhere', it's still not actually 'everywhere'.

However, there is a technology which enables mobile operators to continue to deliver service over Wi-Fi as if it were part of their macro network. That technology is called "Smart Wi-Fi", and it's based on the existing 3GPP GAN standard.

So if Apple, or some other vendor, did decide to make Wi-Fi the default connection preference, a Smart Wi-Fi application on the phone would deliver all the operator's revenue generating services (voice, SMS,...) to the subscriber as if they were attached to the macro network. The Smart Wi-Fi App also uses Wi-Fi to improve indoor 3G coverage.

Don't worry mobile operators, Smart Wi-Fi has you covered.

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