Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bonding of Mobile and Wi-Fi Spectrum is a Land Grab

Wi-Fi interests worry about interference issues as new protocols are developed for bonding mobile and Wi-Fi resources. “Playing nice” always is a legitimate matter for users of shared spectrum.

As always, there are commercial advantages and interests at stake as well. “It’s a land grab,” said Roger Entner, Recon Analytics principal. “Are the cable guys blocking or are the mobile operators responding to future spectrum shortages?”

Maybe some element of each is at work.  

Cable operators see their huge networks of public hotspots as an asset to be monetized. Dense networks of hotspots can support a mobile business plan. Those same networks can drive wholesale capacity businesses as well.

As mobile and Wi-Fi bonding becomes possible, and assuming interference and access rules are respected, the wholesale opportunity arguably diminishes.

Mobile operators have their own incentives. Wi-Fi offload already is an essential part of network operations. Wi-Fi bonding would make the process more seamless, and might even create some new revenue opportunities.

Among the available strategies for dealing with emerging new competition is to get regulatory bodies involved. Keeping innovations from being deployed, if nothing else, allows more time for some contestants to get their commercial offers ready for mass deployment.

“Wait for standards” is one argument sometimes made, as part of that strategy. But competitors often want to seize business advantage now, rather than waiting.

Every technology standard has commercial implications. Every change in network capabilities has potential business model impact, both within and between industry segments or value chain participants.

There are, and will be, many legitimate technology issues to be addressed as various new forms of spectrum sharing are developed and deployed. There will be lots of sparring about the “right framework” and “right policy.”

But contestants are not unmindful of their commercial interests. It is a land grab.

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