Monday 25 November 2013

Wi-Fi as the preferred cellular access and barriers to roaming

Republic Wireless, a regional carrier in the USA is doing some interesting stuff with Wi-Fi and is possibly going to create some interesting challenges for established cellular carriers. An extract from a recent article in Washington post as follows:

Consider Republic Wireless, a Raleigh-based business that announced this month it would sell Motorola's new flagship phone, the Moto X. Republic enjoys all the traditional advantages of an MVNO — low capital expenditures on infrastructure and spectrum — but it's taken the additional step of cutting out 3G and 4G data use whenever it can. Technically, Republic operates on Sprint's network, but it's more appropriate to think of Sprint as a backup for when a call or message can't be completed over WiFi.
Yes, you read that right: WiFi. Republic's business depends on shunting all of your communications — data, voice, everything — onto the free stuff you get in your office or in coffee shops. What makes this beautiful is that whenever a Republic customer chooses to place a call over WiFi, that saves Republic money. As a result, Republic can offer a $5-a-month plan for unlimited talk, text and data. For another $5 a month, customers get access to Sprint's cellular network (minus 3G). Higher-tier plans provide 3G and 4G Internet on Sprint, though it's almost a joke to call them "higher-tier" when the most expensive plan tops out at just $40 a month. The tiered plan supersedes an old, $19-a-month all-you-can-eat plan.
"The crazy plans at $5 and $10 have never been tried," said CEO David Morken. "That's because we focus on unlicensed spectrum as the primary, and licensed spectrum as the secondary."
This approach can be quite disruptive for the MNO's. With NGH / HS2, soon MVNO's like republic wireless will be able to offer roaming on WiFi, thereby cutting the costs while not in the home market.

WBA released an Industry report recently (embedded below) which had some interesting findings.

Industry bodies, vendors and device manufacturers are working hard to get rid of some of these limitations and barriers. Once these limitations are gone, there is going to be a good business case for offering of global Wi-Fi roaming for example.

Another interesting question in the survey was what would be your preferred means of building Wi-Fi footprint. One of the answers is shown above, a similar question was asked in a webinar and posted in the 3G4G blog post here.

Finally, since the WBA report mentions about Wi-Fi and Small cells data offload, you may find a previous post of interest here.

The complete WBA report as follows:

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