Everybody’s doing it…

Posted on October 20, 2014

The use of Wi-Fi as a customer relationship tool is really starting to fly. To pick three examples on a theme from the news in recent weeks: Numerous airlines are launching in-flight services (with a view to one day replacing costly, heavy in-flight entertainment systems), e-Bay is sponsoring free Wi-Fi at airports in Brazil and, if the reports are on the money, Facebook will be testing airborne Wi-Fi drones in 2015 as a means of distributing internet connectivity to the significant minority who remain beyond the reaches of established networks.

Down on the ground, meanwhile, Coca Cola is turning its South African vending machines into Wi-Fi hotspots to reel in buyers.

There are two trends at play here. On the one hand you have companies that depend on user access – like e-Bay and Facebook – pushing to make that access more widely available and affordable. On the other you have companies that recognize the importance of connectivity from the user’s perspective offering it as a brand enhancer or giveaway inducement.

That, at least, is nothing new. Thirty years ago Coca Cola was giving away yo-yos; now it’s giving away Wi-Fi. There probably aren’t as many kids today interested in learning how to Walk the Dog or do the Flying Saucer. But when those who are have mastered a few tricks, you can bet they’ll want to post a video of themselves by way of celebration. And if they can do that for free while buying a drink, all the better.

What these trends have in common is the commoditization of wireless connectivity. Access is just a ‘thing’ that companies focused on a different end game can dish out, gratis, to enhance their offering in some way.

This is not good news for organizations that have made the provision of wireless access their core business. For connectivity players like mobile operators every Wi-Fi freebie chips away a little more at the central premise that connectivity, in and of itself, is something to which a high value and price can be attached.

The question is: what are they going to do about it?

Resistance doesn’t seem like much of a play. Users will go where they will and do what they do; the days when they had to adapt to the operator’s reality are long gone. Instead operators must adjust to customer behavior and offer them something to enhance their use of wireless data.

Integration is surely the best option. Combining Wi-Fi and cellular into a coherent, managed experience such that the user is automatically and always kept on the best available connection in the moment offers substantially more than be achieved by self-provision. And as the controllers of the cellular experience, mobile operators are well-placed to provide this. For all the myriad Wi-Fi connections in the world, after all, mobile operators remain the undisputed leaders in the provision of wireless access.

Left alone—ignored, even—Wi-Fi represents the threat of reduced relevance for mobile operators. But embraced and enhanced, Wi-Fi is an opportunity for expansion of influence.

Carrier Wi-Fi deployments go some way to addressing this but the risk is that they simply attempt to extend a traditional, closed network operational model to a different bearer. Moreover carrier Wi-Fi is limited in scope; hardly surprising when you consider the number of locations needed to provide widespread access.

To fully embrace Wi-Fi, to see it as the user sees it, must be to manage the user’s experience of every Wi-Fi and cellular connection available. That means making sure the quality is good enough, making sure the connection is secure and moving the user whenever these and other core thresholds aren’t being met.

Discrimination by experience makes sense; discrimination by technology is dangerously out of touch.

Anyone can offer free Wi-Fi, a reality borne out by the explosion in available access. But it takes a specialist to deliver a fully automated, managed service that prioritizes quality and safety of experience, across cellular and Wi-Fi of all kinds.

It seems likely that, with every new generation of smartphone users, the consumer view of wireless access will get increasingly homogenized. And as the most powerful brands in the world look to exploit that by addressing the need themselves, traditional operators are going to have to do a lot more with their core competence to keep themselves up in the rarefied air.

Wi-Fi calling: Completing the picture

Posted on September 30, 2014

Although it’s true that Wi-Fi calling from mobile operators has been around for a while, it’s been a niche offering. Of course there have been all the over-the-top services, like Skype, but we’ve seen very few fully transparent operator integrations which allow you to use your phone number. All the hyperbole and revolutionary claims that Read More

Can Carriers Adopt Agile Practices?

Posted on June 16, 2014

Recently I attended the Telecommunications Industry Association Network of the Future Conference in Dallas. The conference was well attended and featured a combination of informative keynotes and a series of lively panel discussions. I participated as a panelist for the 5G Networks track Carrier Aggregation Across Licensed and Unlicensed Spectrum. (I wrote about this in Read More

Monetizing the Entire Data Experience

New opportunities for telecom operators

Posted on June 2, 2014

It’s remarkable how well mobile operators navigated the challenge of massive growth in mobile data consumption. For a mammoth industry—oft criticized for slow movement—things moved extremely fast over the last two years. The big shift to shared data plans drove alignment of data growth with revenue growth, while the technology transition to LTE helped improve Read More

Carrier Aggregation over Unlicensed Spectrum

Posted on June 1, 2014

Recently I’ve been following the proposals to use unlicensed (i.e. Wi-Fi) spectrum to augment cellular capacity. The most prevalent camp proposes using LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation, introduced in 3GPP release 10, where the 5Ghz Wi-Fi bands are used for downlink data, and all other traffic, such as signaling, is ‘anchored’ on licensed spectrum. The 5Ghz unlicensed Read More

ANDSF Helps Enable an “Always Best Connected” Experience

Posted on April 11, 2014

ANDSF (The Access network discovery and selection function) has been around for a while now—ever since 3GPP Release 8. ANDSF allows a mobile network operator to define policies on how “non-3GPP” networks are accessed. (In reality, non-3GPP means Wi-Fi.) It defines three groups of information that can be sent to a handset: Inter-system mobility policy Read More

Hotspot 2.0 or Hotspot Oh.No: My Carrier Wi-Fi Experience at MWC

Posted on March 7, 2014

Wi-Fi—and its Carrier Wi-Fi subset—has become a critical component of mobile network operator strategy.  Carrier Wi-Fi has undergone several redefinitions, but the next generation vision focuses on Hotspot 2.0, also known as “Passpoint.” Theoretically, Hotspot 2.0 provides a seamless connection experience for smartphones by utilizing the SIM card for authentication and leveraging 802.11u to advertise Read More

Posted on February 21, 2014

Devicescape is excited to showcase it’s engagement services at Mobile World Congress 2014. Accessed through any of the over 20 million hotspots that make up Devicescape’s CVN, Popwifi aims to better connect individuals with the places they frequent most and gives them the ability to share what they love about a particular place with anyone Read More

Bucharest_Crop_Image

Curated Spot Check: Bucharest, Romania

Posted on January 26, 2014

A recent trip to Europe saw us in Bucharest for a Curated Spot Check. If you’ve seen earlier posts, you’ll know this is our way of doing an on-the-ground Wi-Fi assessment of our crowd-sourced curated Wi-Fi service. It involves field measurements, primary research, and data analysis of the Wi-Fi environment, so we can fine tune Read More

Black Friday 2013 – The Numbers Are In

Posted on December 9, 2013

Devicescape’s stats are in for the Black Friday and Thanksgiving week, and once again our users benefitted from high performance Wi-Fi connections in many top retail establishments while shopping for bargains. The numbers show big increases in Black Friday foot traffic at many U.S. merchants compared to normal levels. First, a quick note about the Read More