Light Reading
Several WiFi-first MVNOs are relying on WiFi to do the heavy lifting and consumers to accept the trade-offs.

Is WiFi the New It Network?

Sarah Thomas
12/30/2013
50%
50%

WiFi is no longer the pitch hitter for when cellular isn't doing its job. In fact, several startups are banking on it being the preferred network for enough people to build a business on.

Republic Wireless and Scratch Wireless are two of those companies. Both are wholesaling Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s 3G and 4G networks, but relying on WiFi as the primary network to keep costs low -- or non-existent -- for their customers. (See Top 10 Carrier WiFi Movers & Shakers.)

I spoke with both companies, as well as in Devicescape Software Inc. , which lends its network of WiFi access points to Republic, to learn how they are making a business out of unlicensed spectrum and overcoming its shortfalls. You can find the story here in our Prime Reading features section. (See Why WiFi-First Works for Wireless.)

As someone who uses my phone on the train, buses, in cabs, and even while walking (sorry!), the idea of relying on WiFi only isn't appealing or even realistic. But, there's a large percentage of the population who use their devices only at home and in the office, for the most part. Combine that with the substantial cost savings, and a WiFi-first service should appeal to a lot of people. I think it's especially well suited for the younger users that want to jump on a family plan. The mall has hotspots, right?

I've been playing around with Scratch Wireless' Motorola Photon Q, and the service works as advertised. It's not a seamless experience: if you're on a call over WiFi, it drops when you leave the reach of the signal. But, Scratch executives tell me it's not supposed to be -- it's designed to be completely free, so the user selects when they want to use cellular and should never be surprised with a charge from the phone handing off without their knowledge.

Republic Wireless is different in that its customers tend to hop on cellular more, so there is a handoff process for voice calls that should be seamless for them. (See Republic Wireless Revamps Its WiFi Handoff.)

WiFi is still far from perfect. Users get tossed on to broken or overloaded networks. The selection process is often far from smooth. And, while it's many places, it's not everywhere yet. That said, if you're buying service from one of these MVNOs, you probably know -- and accept -- these limitations. It's still too early to know how many of these people are out there, but this will be an interesting industry segment to watch as WiFi continues to improve in terms of ubiquity, reliability, and quality.

Check out the story in the Prime Reading section of the site, and let us know what you think. Is WiFi a viable alternative to cellular service for you? Should the wireless operators be worried about this new crop of startups claiming it will be?

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(20)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
12/31/2013 | 2:43:58 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
I was a bit off with 8 years. I referenced the concept at least back in 2002:

http://www.deltanetwork.org/broadband/auxdox/document_asp.html
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
12/31/2013 | 1:46:38 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
Yeah, when did people start talking about personal area networks? 8 years ago? Might actually start happening in 2014-15 with all these smart watches etc. Or not.
andresetc
50%
50%
andresetc,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/30/2013 | 9:19:02 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
Indeed - LAN's, PAN's and NFC.... micro networks everywhere connecting our watches, spectacles, wallets, home appliances, credit cards, tennis shoes - whatever.... :-)
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
12/30/2013 | 5:53:01 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
It's the M2M provider's dream!
andresetc
50%
50%
andresetc,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/30/2013 | 5:48:49 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
In our very near future - Antennas will be like lightbulbs. Integral will be the backbone provider of course, but the fact that little spectrum umbrellas of WiFi coverage (or whatever other wireless medium becomes the norm), is innevitable.

Much more efficient than a WAN type coverage. The more granularity - the better.

Can you immagine walking around the house the street or the city in the dark ?

Not exactly prophetic - but you heard it here.... 
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
12/30/2013 | 4:41:37 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
Shouldn't you be calling for POTs then? ;-)
RitchBlasi
0%
100%
RitchBlasi,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/30/2013 | 2:15:14 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
Yes, VoLTE should change the dynamics on pricing - and it shouldn't surprise anyone that the carriers have no clue on this yet.  Everything gets carried over the data network but video takes up more bandwidth than voice and both take up more than what most apps eat.  Expect montly data packages to increase from the 10GB plans to much more.  And that's without the video calling, right?  Will be interesting to see the first carrier lay out its plans.
MordyK
50%
50%
MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/30/2013 | 1:36:33 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
I think WiFi is interesting but I prefer the QoS possibilities inherent in a unified managed network model, which the FREE model manages to achieve on both counts.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
12/30/2013 | 1:31:29 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
Fon is another interesting company to keep an eye on. Operators are lining up to partner with it, and it's WiFi-sharing model expands the network significantly.
MordyK
50%
50%
MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/30/2013 | 1:29:59 PM
Re: Lost in the WiFi universe
if the US cable co's kept their spectrum instead of handing it over to Verizon, we coulda seen some interesting deployments along these lines.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Que Sera Sarah
Project Ara – smartphones built around modules – will be launching soon, creating questions about how operators will price such devices as leasing programs have become the norm.
The past year validated our 2014 small cell movers and shakers list in a lot of ways, but it also saw several executives leave the small cell market, by choice or otherwise.
BlackBerry and T-Mobile are considering kissing and making up, but only if their CEOs can get along.
Sprint's promotion to halve the service pricing plans of those switching from AT&T or Verizon isn't as good as it seems when you factor in the new device requirements.
OTT chat app Kik has raised $38.3M in funding and acquired a GIF maker, showing operators there are other ways to monetize chat than ads and fees.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Dr. Dong Sun Talks About Carriers' Digital Transformation & Huawei’s Telco OS

1|29|15   |   6:28   |   (0) comments


Dr. Dong Sun, Chief Architect of Digital Transformation Solutions at Huawei, discusses how telecom operators can become digital ecosystem enablers and deliver optimal user experiences that are in real-time, on-demand, all-online, DIY and social (ROADS).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Chief Network Architect Talks about Network Experience & Operators’ Strategies

1|29|15   |   3:39   |   (0) comments


In the digital age, network experience has become the primary productivity especially for telecom operators. In this video, Wenshuan Dang, Huawei’s Chief Network Architect, discusses how carriers can tackle the challenge of infrastructure complexity in order to enhance business agility and improve user experience.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Virtual CPE

1|27|15   |   01:38   |   (4) comments


As NFV strategies evolve from tests and trials to production telco networks, expect to hear a lot about virtual CPE (customer premises equipment) rollouts during 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
Optical Is Hot in 2015

1|23|15   |   01:56   |   (2) comments


Optical comms technology underpins the whole communications sector and there are some really hot trends set for 2015.
LRTV Custom TV
Policy Control in the Fast Lane

1|22|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


What's making policy control strategic in 2015 and beyond? Amdocs talks with Heavy Reading's Graham Finnie about the key factors driving change in the data services landscape. Find out what his policy management research reveals about the road ahead for policy control – and sign up for
LRTV Documentaries
Highlights From the 2020 Vision Executive Summit

1|21|15   |   4:33   |   (2) comments


In December 2014, Light Reading brought together telecom executives in Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss their vision for high-capacity networks through the end of the decade. The intimate, interactive meeting was set against the backdrop of Iceland's spectacular natural beauty. As one of the event's founding sponsors, Cisco's Doug Webster shared his company's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Harmonic, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment with Huawei

1|20|15   |   5:42   |   (1) comment


At IBC, Peter Alexander, Senior Vice President & CMO at Harmonic, speaks about the growing interest in pay-TV service and its branching into multiple devices.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sony Marketing Director Olivier Bovis Discusses the Outlook for 4K and Cooperation With Huawei at IBC 2014

1|20|15   |   6:50   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Envivio, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment

1|20|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Pay-TV's Networked Future

1|20|15   |   6:29   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about the future of the pay-TV industry and its transition.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Jeff Heynen: Distributed Access Will Help MSOs Compete in the Future

1|20|15   |   2:26   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about moving to distributed access and the future trend of cable business.
LRTV Interviews
Cisco Talks Transformation

1|20|15   |   13:02   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Steve Saunders sat down with Cisco VP of Products & Solutions Marketing Doug Webster at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. They spoke about Cisco's approach to network virtualization as well as how service providers can begin to monetize high-capacity networks through the end of the decade.
Upcoming Live Events
February 5, 2015, Washington, DC
February 19, 2015, The Fairmont San Jose, San Jose, CA
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 9-10, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2-3, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
Infographics
Hot Topics
Google Continues Gigabit Expansion
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 1/27/2015
Cablevision's New WiFi Try – Freewheeling Enough?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 1/26/2015
Overture Builds on NFV Foundation
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 1/27/2015
LightSpeed Looks to Plug the Gigabit Gap
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 1/23/2015
Parks Predicts HBO OTT Success
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 1/23/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Weekly Executive Interview
Join us live for Light Reading's interview with Jay Samit, the newly appointed CEO of publicly traded SeaChange International Inc. With a resume that includes Sony, EMI, Universal, Intel and Microsoft, Samit brings a reputation as an entrepreneur and a disruptor to his new role at the video solutions company. Hear what he has to say about the opportunities in video, as well as the outlook for cable, telco, OTT and mobile service providers.