Has the time finally come for large-scale Wi-Fi/mobile convergence? The answer from the big US cable carriers as of this week and last appears to be a resounding YES.
Comcast & Charter going wireless
Just last week Comcast announced they will go ahead and launch their mobile service as an MVNO on Verizon’s 4G network. A few days later, Charter – the other US cable giant that now includes Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks – hinted that they’re going to do the same as reported here by Fierce Wireless.
Wi-Fi will evolve to meet demand, says Charter
So what will be the role of Wi-Fi in all of this? Comcast’s mobile service (rumoured to be ready for launch in mid 2017) will no doubt rely heavily on the company’s huge 14 million Xfinity hotspot Wi-Fi footprint, most of which comes in the form of ‘homespots’ aka shared home Wi-Fi routers.
How Charter intends to get into wireless is less certain but this comment caught our eye: ‘Wi-Fi in the future will evolve in order to meet customers’ expectations of getting the same kind of speed and latency inside and outside of the home,’ said Jim Blackley, executive vice president of engineering and IT for Charter at a cable event in Philadelphia just yesterday.
Google’s Project Fi is of course taking a similar ‘network of networks’ approach to wireless that includes Wi-Fi and cellular. The Google service has been available in the US for about a year now.
Another looming question is when something like this might spread to Europe. The biggest contender would likely be Liberty Global whose Virgin Media brand just acquired Arqiva’s Wi-Fi network in the UK.
The technology is here today
And just in case you’re wondering: Yes, all the technology to make Wi-Fi and mobile play nicely together as a service exists today. Here are some of the companies making it happen: Carnegie Technologies is one of the few (if not the only) company right now that offers gapless & seamless handoff technology between mobile and Wi-Fi.
For carriers looking for ready-made Wi-Fi footprints to complement cellular, iPass has amassed some 50 million hotspots worldwide. The company even offers analytics and an SDK so that you can plug your app into this behemoth. Newcomer Wiman has crowdsourced another 50 million hotspots, and Fon – the originators of the homespot concept – today operates in more than 20 million hotspots.
Last but not least multi-award winning startup BandwidthX is operating a dynamic bandwidth exchange for Wi-Fi between service providers and they’re today backed by investors from Orange Digital Ventures.
If you want to meet ALL of the above tech leaders, don’t miss Wi-Fi NOW International in London this October 25-27! Get your ticket here.