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How Cablecos Can Turn From Victims to Victors
Clifton K Morris I shared this on Wireless Week First...
Clifton K Morris   Tuesday October 9, 2018 1:44:20 AM
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If memory serves me correct, WallStreet and analysists were talking about Comcast making a tender offer to buy Verizon about three years ago.

Instead of buying Verizon, SpectrumCo (the company originally formed for a widescale WiMAX deployment with companies like ClearWire and Intel) instead pursued a MVNO agreement which also included an exchange of AWS spectrum. Comcast had 60% voting rights of SpectrumCo.

In return, SpectrumCO companies received favorable, long-term MVNO rates for voice and 3G speeds without caps and also fairly inexpensive 4G LTE allowances for their customers.

Today, the Cable Companies offer “unlimited” 3G data with a relatively reasonable 4G allowance. It’s not unlimited LTE because of the sheer number of Customers Verizon still services in-house. Verizon has its hands tied and can not match T-Mobile’s 55GB allowance offered today, which no one has challenged.

Some day, US-based Verizon may have access to similar spectrum licenses and assets T-Mobile has today, and able to offer unlimited to its customers. Verizon would need more low-band PCS and AWS spectrum as a divestiture condition to match T-Mobile’s 55GB offering today... New technology rollouts (millimeter-wave, and 37.2 million miles of Fiber— April 18, 2017 Corning press release) are also needed to compete with assets Sprint/T-Mobile plan to merge together.

SpectrumCo and Comcast did a great job. However, the constant connecting to Xfinity WiFi hotspots adds inter-technology handoff and connection issues. WiFi calling doesn’t seem to be offloading from Verizon’s macro cell network as originally expected. Cable Customer’s definition of “unlimited LTE is limited to 22 gigabytes”.

We’re at an inflection point where someone should ask “why not more data”, “how can we all make money”, and “should customers pay for the same data twice?”

Viewed from a technical perspective these changes to Verizon’s lackluster definition of “Unlimited” likely arise from issues surrounding WiFi standards. WiFi calling frees up Verizon’s macrocell network but doesn’t handle NLOS conditions very well, and customers install cable modems wherever they want inside the home. The fatal flaw in the entire Wi-Fi network spec is an issue where link-rates slow down to the (often physically furthest away) device on the network. To compare, LTE negotiates speed on a per-client device capability regardless of distance.

Technology, policy, and divestitures could solve part of these issue— Hotspots could be better served if they had a LTE radio built-in; Cable had access to a small slice of (10-20Mhz) of AWS/PCS spectrum specifically allocated to LTE, and perhaps 4 watts ERP maximum at the router, instead of 40-watts frequently seen at Macrocell sites. Also, PCS/AWS is outside of spectrum used on Cable Networks, (likely to not interfere with RF used on coax) and a 4 watt ERP at the router would be similar to old analog bag phones; not designed to be next to a person’s ear.

Further more, Inter-technology handover of voice can be more reliable if RAN access was allowed instead of just “vanilla” MVNO. New technologies like SON and SAS could manage the noise floor; increase frequency re-use.

Ideally, something similar to AT&T’s FirstNet implementation would be very consumer-friendly. All internet customers could benefit— they wouldn’t need to be double-billed for data like they are today with Microcells, or slowed down based on the cable subscriber’s rate plan for the home. Also, schools, warehouse, corporate environments would not have to deploy multiple 802.11 routers because of NLOS speed issues inherent to WiFi specs. A more through offloading strategy focused on LTE that uses new technology from CableLabs, LTE standards, (Baicells HALO technology is amazing) all complements and strengthens the entire wireless industry.

SpectrumCo companies could then conceivably negotiate lower prices (similar to Crown Castle’s business model for DAS in airports and stadiums) for all LTE customers using the copper coax already in the ground.

I recently asked a board-level exec at Apple to consider these thoughts/ideas for features to include in their next Airport Router family. Apple is doing a lot with Intel who has a robust LTE patent portfolio. Several years back, I also asked the same folks for a dual-SIM phone. But today, the market has changed and new technology exists like Asymetric DOCSIS 3.1. It’s a great way to monetize the new bandwidth on Cable Networks, and deliver new services people want and enjoy.

When it came to T-Mobile, John Stanton, who founded more than 4 wireless companies to build wireless infrastructure (including VoiceStream, AllTell, CellularOne, Employee #2 at McCaw Cellular) once said ‘T-Mobile had 2 possible routes. One scenario where all the coverage between wireless carriers was the same via collaboration, contracts and market forces; in that scenario, company focus should be on customer service.... The other scenario where TMobile was acquired by AT&T by way of three-way merger of AT&T and (then) Cingular’.

Stanton/McCaw sold their analog cable franchise to get into wireless because of lack of regulation and designation as a utility... which remains very odd that it isn’t... because the satellite content distribution industry is subject to many regulations like cable.

But today, T-Mobile remains 60% owned by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom (only 30% of the company is on the stock market) and DT’s CEO is also Chairman of T-Mobile USA.

It doesn’t bode very well for customer choice to allow one company a monopoly to deliver 100meg internet service to over 90% of the population in the US. The US doesn’t allow this sort of customer reach for standard home telephone service.


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