Light Reading

Wi-Fi: Taking the Strain for Cellular

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
12/21/2012
50%
50%

Three companies long involved in the Wi-Fi business are here to tell us why 802.11 can still take the strain for cellular even in an age of 4G.

Blazin' Wi-Fi
Towerstream Corp., which traditionally offers a WiMax-based last-mile service to business customers, wants to build up its carrier business, leasing Passpoint-ready Wi-Fi nodes to operators. CEO Jeff Thompson won't name the company's carrier customers thus far for Wi-Fi, but the company has two contracts with "national" carriers and a trial under way with a third.

For some time now, Towerstream executives have been of the belief that Wi-Fi and 3G and cellular would be deployed side-by-side. This was confirmed when they heard operator presentations at the WBA Wi-Fi Global Congress in November. "It's interesting now to see Wi-Fi in five-year business models when they're doing network planning," Thompson says.

Certainly for the major carriers, entire network architectures are going through a fundamental shift. Engineers at Sprint, for example, are getting surgical about small cells, using them to pump up data capacity to preserve scarce spectrum.

Wi-Fi has a crucial role to play in all of this change, according to Towerstream. "We're at the point now where Wi-Fi is not going away," Thompson says. The majority of a consumer's smartphone data usage is done via Wi-Fi and it's the one common technology on handsets that transcends HSPA+, LTE and other flavors of wireless, he notes.

In Thompson's eyes, Wi-Fi offload is not that different from what carriers have been doing for years. For a long time, they wanted to own the towers and rooftops but discovered it was more economical to let the tower companies do that. Granted, operators still need to do some of their own site acquisitions, but more often, they're looking at getting these types of services from someone else.

"The cheapest way to grow your revenue is to lower churn," Thompson notes, adding that the cheapest way to acquire spectrum is to use offload.

Alternative for roaming
In addition to making the most of licensed spectrum, Wi-Fi is one of the more economical ways to deliver international roaming, especially as the industry moves to LTE and needs to figure out how to make all those disparate frequencies talk to one another.

Boingo Wireless Inc., which manages more than 600,000 hot spots worldwide, has an agreement to supply global roaming for an unnamed U.S.-based Tier 1 carrier. Boingo expects to see the results of that deal reflected in its bottom line toward the end of 2013 and into 2014. It's still in the early stages, but President and CEO David Hagan is hopeful that, along with Boingo's agreement with the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), it will lead to more carrier deals in the future.

The purpose of the CCA agreement is two-fold, said Christian Gunning, vice president of corporate communications at Boingo. First, the carriers in CCA tend to be more spectrum constrained and therefore they can use the offload capabilities of the Wi-Fi network. Second, because their footprints are smaller than the Big 4 U.S. carriers, they're spending a lot on roaming. Offloading onto Wi-Fi gives them an economical alternative.

Boingo's relationship with operators goes beyond Wi-Fi, however, and that's another reason company executives think they have a leg up. Boingo considers itself the second-largest distributed antenna systems (DAS) operator in the U.S., second only to Crown Castle International Corp.. Hagan has stated that he believes carrier Wi-Fi will be much more like the DAS business, where traffic moves back and forth without the consumer's intervention.

Different strokes
In the same general category as Boingo is another company, iPass. But where Boingo's offerings include a service direct to consumers, iPass has been focused on the enterprise and doesn't target consumers, explains Steve Livingston, iPass's senior vice president of carrier development. It also doesn't position its carrier services as something to use for Wi-Fi offload. Instead, the company sells a solution for operators to offer international roaming to their customers under a white-label arrangement.

The selling point of iPass for businesses is its ability to work out all the variations between networks, like authentication, and present a connection as a single seamless entity to its customers.

iPass expects to finish this year with between 15 and 20 roaming deals. None of them so far involves a U.S. carrier but according to the company it is early days yet.

"These are the early adopters around the world who are going to take a service to the market and we'll see how disruptive they are," Livingston said. "We're in the first and second inning of a whole new market."

— Monica Alleven , special to Light Reading

(5)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
CraigPlunkett
50%
50%
CraigPlunkett,
User Rank: Moderator
1/15/2013 | 5:52:23 AM
re: Wi-Fi: Taking the Strain for Cellular
I'm in the SF area, and it turns out that Towerstream's net here is also publishing a MetroPCS splash page too. -áSo lots going on for Carrier Wi-Fi offload!
ASHARDIE
50%
50%
ASHARDIE,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/9/2013 | 2:55:33 PM
re: Wi-Fi: Taking the Strain for Cellular
Jose - I think it will be more relevent.-á New spectrum is nice - but its still more expensive than WiFi will be.

Great article overall - but a good follow-up note would be to identify the Metro Ethernet providers who see PassPoint 2.0 as an enabler for them to gain entrance to the off load market.
joset01
50%
50%
joset01,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/5/2013 | 2:03:13 AM
re: Wi-Fi: Taking the Strain for Cellular


With the FCC opening up the airwaves to allow 4G LTE roaming between carriers does that make Wi-Fi roaming more or less relevant?

CraigPlunkett
50%
50%
CraigPlunkett,
User Rank: Moderator
1/4/2013 | 1:17:14 AM
re: Wi-Fi: Taking the Strain for Cellular
Jeff may not be naming carriers, but Towerstream's Manhattan network has recently started broadcasting the "Sprint Wi-Fi" SSID. -áWi-Fi as a key component of het-nets will take off when the transparent authentication issue is solved in an efficient manner.
I'd also wager that once that happens, clusters of carrier class -áWi-Fi nodes will far outnumber cell sites and move far more data for happier users.

Metro Ethernet providers will also reap a bonanza of new customers and get into the managed Wi-Fi business themselves.
dan.mcbride
50%
50%
dan.mcbride,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/3/2013 | 10:56:03 PM
re: Wi-Fi: Taking the Strain for Cellular
Great article Monica, almost missed it due to the holiday break.

As a Wi-Fi gateway provider we can say that based on our recent operator conversations and trial activity, fixed and mobile operators alike are exploring many new approaches to Wi-Fi that will benefit them beyond cost reduction (i.e. Offload) to revenue generation.

In addition, I urge you to consider that your title could have been "802.11 can still take the strain for cellular 'especially' in an age of 4G."-á As consumer expectations evolve with a 4G experience and the 4G devices and users climb, there will be no going back, and Wi-Fi access will be an absolute requirement to supplement spectrum positions across the board.

Dan McBride
Stoke
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Against the odds, Huawei is growing its telecoms networking equipment business in the US -- that should be ringing some alarm bells for domestic vendors.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Between the CEOs
Metaswitch's New CEO Martin Lund Discusses His Role

9|2|15   |   11:27   |   (2) comments


Technology industry veteran Martin Lund joins Metaswitch Networks this week as the company's new CEO. In this interview, Lund discusses his new role and the industry's progress with Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders. Lund believes that the industry disruption caused by SDN and NFV is creating opportunities for companies like Metaswitch – network software providers ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Nominum on Leveraging the Power of DNS to Deliver Superior Subscriber Experiences

9|2|15   |   07:13   |   (0) comments


Nominum CEO Gary Messiana talks about the challenges service providers face in competing for a much more sophisticated customer, a customer that has heightened expectations for more personalized and compelling digital experiences. Providers are focusing their efforts on delivering higher value subscriber services, retaining their existing customers and increasing ...
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Jeff Miller, ActiveVideo

8|28|15   |   19:05   |   (0) comments


Jeff Miller, President and CEO of ActiveVideo, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the impact of virtualization on the TV and video distribution market.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Vodafone: Mobile Money Is About Customer Trust

8|27|15   |   06.36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading spoke with Vodafone's Ian Ravenscroft about the unique responsibilities and opportunities facing operators handling customers' financial transactions over the network.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Palo Alto Networks on Expanding in the Carrier/Service Provider Market

8|26|15   |   07:54   |   (0) comments


Alfred Lee from Palo Alto Networks tells Steve Saunders about their new chassis-based system, the PA-7080, and how it can benefit service providers compared to legacy firewalls.
LRTV Custom TV
Global Services Forum Preview

8|25|15   |   02:36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders talks about Huawei's upcoming Global Services Forum with the help of Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan and Teresa Mastrangelo.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Infoblox on DNS Threat Index

8|19|15   |   04:39   |   (0) comments


Dilip Pillaipakam from Infoblox talks to Steve Saunders about his company's core network services.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Ihab Tarazi, Equinix

8|14|15   |   20:18   |   (1) comment


Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the dramatic changes in the data center, cloud and interconnect markets and discusses the impact of SDN and NFV in the coming years.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
The Netformx Ecosystem

8|14|15   |   09:39   |   (1) comment


Ittai Bareket, CEO of Netformx, talks with Steve Saunders about the Netformx Ecosystem, which employs cutting-edge prescriptive analytics to help solution providers maximize profits.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Versa Networks on Leveraging VNFs

8|12|15   |   07:37   |   (0) comments


Kumar Mehta, founder and CEO of stealth mode startup Versa Networks, talks with Steve Saunders about how providers can best leverage virtualized network functions (VNFs).
LRTV Custom TV
Transforming the Network Through OPNFV

8|5|15   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Sandra Rivera, VP Data Center Group; GM Network Platforms Group, Intel Corporation, on OPNFV Arno and how the industry is coming together to accelerate the deployment of NFV and transform the network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei ONS Product Demo

8|3|15   |   6:01   |   (0) comments


Huawei shows at Open Networking Summit 2015 in Santa Clara how its SDN and NFV solutions embrace openness.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Cisco's cloud and virtualization portfolio can increase business agility and innovation by building a more flexible network architecture.
Hot Topics
T-Mobile CEO Plays Data Traffic Cop
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 8/31/2015
CEO Chat With Bill Gates
Steve Saunders, CEO and founder, Light Reading, 8/31/2015
Time to Monetize Cable WiFi
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 8/31/2015
New Apple TV: More $$, Not Content – Report
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 8/31/2015
Ex-AlcaLu Boss Tasked With Bolstering Altice
Iain Morris, News Editor, 9/1/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
September 16, 2015
Wi-Fi First or Second?
September 22, 2015
Media Begins With “Me”
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Technology industry veteran Martin Lund joins Metaswitch Networks this week as the company's new CEO. In this interview, Lund discusses his new role and the industry's progress with Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders. Lund believes that the industry disruption caused by SDN and NFV is creating opportunities for companies like Metaswitch – network software providers with the agility to embrace new technologies quickly and the ability to deliver on substantial projects for global network operators.
The scene: Last Saturday, lunchtime, the interior of a shi-shi-foo-foo eatery in Manhattan's SoHo district.
Cats with Phones
Tastes Like Fish Click Here
Please hold while I lick the phone.