Friday, July 29, 2011

Carrier Wi-Fi

Carrier Wi-Fi: The Industry that Apple Built ( launch at a time)

By: Bernard Herscovich

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, it seems that every time Apple launches a new category-redefining product, Wi-Fi becomes more important to both users and carriers. In this blog I'll focus on the progressively more significant role that Wi-Fi has taken on for carriers following the successive iPhone, iPad and iCloud launches. (Disclosure: As this Reuters article, "Canada's BelAir Networks rides iPhone wave", from earlier this year makes clear, BelAir Networks has directly benefited from the trend I'm about to discuss.)

Before the iPhone, mobile broadband essentially meant laptops with dongles. It was broadband, certainly, but not very mobile. Of course, there were smartphones before the iPhone, but they tended to be more about mobility than broadband - certainly none before could match the rich mobile broadband experience that iPhone users enjoyed. But, as soon became clear, all that mobile broadband traffic generated by the hugely popular and iconic device, came at a price to the mobile network. And the first mover carriers to adopt the iPhone, like AT&T, were the ones who had to pay it. As the company acknowledged in April: "AT&T's mobile data volumes surged by a staggering 8,000% from 2007 to 2010".

Luckily, the iPhone was Wi-Fi enabled from Day One and, as Michael Morgan of ABI Research later pointed out: "the iPhone led people to use Wi-Fi to a degree never seen before." This foresight on Apple's part had two huge impacts on carriers. The first was that carriers realized that Wi-Fi could be used to augment mobile broadband capacity - a process often referred to as 3G offload - in areas of high user concentration. For example, AT&T launched a series of Wi-Fi hotzones in busy areas of New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Charlotte and most recently, Austin. But, Wi-Fi on the iPhone, and the many smartphones that emulated its success, also allowed operators to get into the mobile broadband business without using licensed spectrum. Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision have all deployed Wi-Fi in their respective coverage areas and negotiated a roaming agreement allowing all of their customers to benefit from their combined coverage in NY, NJ, Connecticut and throughout Philadelphia. The cable strand mounted variant of Wi-Fi access points (AP) that these operators use has created a Carrier Wi-Fi market segment known as Cable Wi-Fi.

But, if the iPhone put unlicensed Wi-Fi on a more equal footing with its licensed band counterparts, the introduction of the iPad started tipping the balance, further increasing Wi-Fi's importance to carriers. Two key iPad features were instrumental in this continued shift. The first was its screen size. The iPad is ideal for viewing video on the go. Though video is supported on smartphones, their small screens made them more appropriate for clips than feature films. (Of course, they're also ideal for video calling, which Apple revolutionized with FaceTime, an app only available over Wi-Fi.) The iPad's relatively large screen made video viewing much more of a mainstream app. Video drives huge bandwidth requirements, compounding the congestion issues initiated with the launch of the iPhone. This alone would have been enough to highlight the increasing importance of Wi-Fi to carriers, but there was another iPad innovation that really underlined Wi-Fi as a critical carrier technology, namely the availability and ensuing popularity of Wi-Fi only versions. As I noted in a Wireless Week article, Wi-Fi: The Other Small Cell, back in February, industry analysts, Ross Rubin and Chetan Sharma, estimated that Wi-Fi-only iPads constituted greater than 60 percent of iPad sales with Wi-Fi-only usage accounting for 75 percent or more. The latest figures from comScore (for May 2011) reveal that 91.9% of iPad traffic occurred over Wi-Fi. Without a compelling Wi-Fi strategy, mobile carriers risk losing touch with their iPad-wielding customers. Conversely, carriers offering Wi-Fi can gain access to iPad users, even ones that aren't their mobile customers.

The only way to make Wi-Fi more important to carriers would be for Apple to launch a new revolutionary product that would predominantly rely on Wi-Fi connectivity. Enter iCloud. So now, carriers who don't offer Wi-Fi stand to lose the opportunity to connect (and connect with!) their customers whenever they're using iCloud for music, photos, or apps on any of their Wi-Fi enabled devices. As Lynnette Luna noted in FierceBroadbandWireless, "the notion of Wi-Fi hotzones is about to accelerate."

Carriers have many reasons for deploying Wi-Fi. They may want to offload data from 3G/4G, improve the profitability of their networks, offer a great mobile broadband experience, stay connected to their own customers or get connected to some new ones. But, whatever their reasons, chances are Apple had something to do with it. As I write this, Philip Elmer-Dewitt, Editor of Apple 2.0 at Fortune reports that "The Street has fallen back in love with Apple (AAPL)" and quotes Ticonderoga's Brian White: "Apple holds the hottest hand in the tech world". Nuff said, as they say.

So, now that Apple has made Wi-Fi critical for carriers, what are carriers demanding of Wi-Fi? BelAir Networks CTO, Stephen Rayment offers some insight into the demanding requirements inherent in Carrier Wi-Fi.

Reprinted from the BelAir Networks Blog

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wireless Jobs

Do Wireless Jobs Really Vanish?

By Fred Campbell, President and CEO, WCAI

While we appreciate the analysis attempted in the July 18 Wall Street Journal story, “Wireless Jobs Vanish,” the article fails to accurately capture the entire snapshot of the wireless communications sector. The premise that jobs created by the wireless industry are contracting is false; in fact it is quite the opposite.

The wireless industry has been the catalyst for job growth throughout the communications sector, where networks are the central hub to a multi-faceted ecosystem. The broader wireless industry continues to expand and add jobs, including application and software developers, content providers, infrastructure companies, and equipment and device manufacturers. According to a recent study, Silicon Valley tech employers expect a 15 percent bump in hiring in the next two years, which incorporates mobile technology.

To sustain the explosive wireless demand America is experiencing (think apps, video, live streaming, etc.), wireless providers continue to invest in network upgrades and infrastructure development. Meanwhile, the federal government is working on a proposal to free additional spectrum to enable continued growth in mobility and further fuel innovation. This all translates to jobs - from constructing next-generation, 4G LTE wireless networks spanning the country to start-ups developing the latest in wireless tools and applications.

Whether the employment data in the article is accurate or not, one thing for certain is that it only presents a limited view of the wireless ecosystem, since it only recognizes employment within the wireless operator category. Demand, innovation and growth within the ecosystem is exploding, and what is clear is that the wireless communications industry and investment in mobile broadband across the nation will remain one of the primary drivers of job creation and economic recovery in our country.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Expanded 4G Coverage in NYC

Clearwire, Time Warner Cable and Sprint Expand 4G Coverage in New York City

By Clearwire

The city that never sleeps just got another reason to stay awake.

When we first launched our 4G network in New York City 8 months ago we changed the way New Yorkers were able to experience the Internet and stay connected on the go. We’ve been hard at work with Sprint and Time Warner Cable ever since then to continually upgrade and expand our game-changing network, and as of today we’ve added coverage for an extra 91,363 people. That means our total NYC area coverage now reaches over 11,927,000 people.

“Sprint 4G customers in the Greater New York area will benefit from these enhancements,” said Karen Paletta, Sprint’s East region Vice President. And it’s true! We know how busy you are, and these upgrades have made our network bigger, faster and strong enough to keep up with you as you run around making things happen in your city.

“Across New York and New Jersey, Clearwire’s 4G speed continues to set the standard in delivering a high-speed network that businesses and consumers demand,” said Sean Reid, Regional General Manager for Clearwire. It’s never been easier to get things done on the go – whether you’re downloading a file for work or sending your friend a video clip you took during an outdoor concert in the park. As Lou Lazzaro, Vice President of Wireless, Time Warner Cable New York City said, we’re “offering our customers multiple ways to access the information and content they want at home, at work and on the go.”

Reprinted from CLEAR blog

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4G World Early Bird Registration Ends July 7

Those attending 4G World this year are encouraged to register before July 7 with WCAI’s Priority Code 4GWMS22 to save up to $800. The early bird deadline extension is an exclusive offer available with the WCAI’s priority code only. 4G World continues to expand its program features and special events to provide attendees with opportunities to learn, network and compete in this competitive market. Organized on Oct. 24-27, 2011 at McCormick Place in Chicago, the event will feature the WCAI Spectrum Summit on Oct. 24 to explore the implementation of the Obama Administration’s spectrum plan and its potential impact on the industry. Register now!