WiFi Animates the Debate on the Future of Mobile Communications Connectivity is Essential, but Strong Revenues Will Come from Elsewhere

9 Feb

Imagine a free WiFi connected world! You do not need a cellular network. You do not need a mobile data tariff. Wherever you are, you are simply on! And it is free! This is essentially what Julius Genachowsky, President of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has put on the table of five FCC board members. Connectivity becomes invisible; inevitably necessary, but invisible. Mark Weiser’s “disappearing computer” vision is becoming more real.

This proposal has understandably shocked the North American mobile network operators. The imaginary free WiFi connected world requires a substantial investment, and it will take some time to come. But, in the long run, this scenario is a real threat to mobile network operators.

What will their role be Are all these investments in LTE simply in vain The argument of connectivity as a sort of human right combined with the correlation “connectivity implies economic growth” is a difficult one to counter. Quite possibly, free connectivity for all of us could be a tremendous engine of social and economic improvements.

In all of this, the future of mobile network operators appears terribly fragile. Even the simple consideration of such a scenario can shake mobile network operators’ boardrooms – and these boardrooms are well aware of the threat. They can see that threat over their shoulders. They can see their customers switching to a WiFi free connection when it is possible rather than using mobile networks for data traffic. Therefore, their approach is to invest heavily in LTE, but also looking around intensively – almost obsessively – at other business ideas and other potential revenue streams in several domains of our lives; from entertainment to health.

The argument that software, big data and intelligent and secure networking solutions will be the three key technological dimensions for remaining relevant in the future mobile communications market appears to be embraced by those boardrooms.

And in all this, the WiFi technology is gaining a new momentum. The most recent rumour is Deutsche Telekom eyeing FON.

The debate surrounding the spectrum crunch does not seem to be so dramatically urgent anymore! The industry talks a lot about WiFi, small cells, cognitive radio technologies and other solutions that can help LTE supporting the continuous growing demand of data access for some time. This was very well stated in to the recent “Report to the President: Realising the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth” by the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The world is not a free WiFi connected space yet. However, the evolution of mobile communications is not quite as linear as we thought a couple of years ago when we all pushed for LTE to come out as a natural evolution of the GSM-UMTS-HSPA story.

Many things have changed rapidly, and they have changed despite the mobile network technologies adopted.

Mobile and wireless communications technologies are increasingly perceived as a commodity, a necessity for building the new mobile world on the top layers of the TCP/IP stack. And it is there, on the top, that the main battle will be fought: where mobile network operators meet Internet-based companies, software providers and technology providers to deliver services to their customers. I will switch connectivity on as I switch on the light. It does not matter how the bits are delivered. It matters how you organize those bits to offer me intelligent and high quality services. ” Saverio Romeo is an Industry Manager for Frost & Sullivan ICT group.

Source: http://insurance-technology.tmcnet.com/news/2013/02/08/6911932.htm

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