For those of us who live in the U.S., it is hard not to notice that cable multiple system operators (MSOs) are pushing the fact that subscribers can access what are now described as “millions” of Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. Indeed, in the past several weeks my colleague Mae Kowalke has done two articles in what is a three-part series on the subject.
In the first posting Kowalke looked at the advantage MSOs have over their telecom competitors at a high level and noted that MSOs should not rest on their laurels and need to continue to deploy more hotspots to take advantage of growing interest in voice-over-Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi). In the second, Kowalke noted that Bell Labs (News - Alert) (News - Alert) Consulting has found that MSOs can gain significant savings from data steering alone.
In this final part of the series we look at the how and why of MSO Wi-Fi deployment. We’ll not only examine the effects of Wi-Fi in densely populated urban environments like cities and stadiums, but also in the home.
As explained in a recent TechZine posting by Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) (News - Alert) (ALU) marketing executive Nicholas Cadgwan, “MSOs need to address the Wi-Fi opportunity both within and outside the home.” In support of his case for Wi-Fi first for MSOs, Cadgwan cites two intriguing quotes from Craig Moffett, partner and senior analyst atMoffettNathanson, who explained in a recent report the following:
“The time is coming when Wi-Fi will shift from being a ‘secondary’ network to being a primary one. Instead of thinking of Wi-Fi as an alternative to cellular everywhere Wi-Fi is available, we will…begin to think of cellular as a backup network needed only when Wi-Fi is not.”
“Paired with an MVNO agreement…a Wi-Fi-first network could be a game changer…but only if the cable operators had sufficiently dense Wi-Fi networks.”
Given that the default connection on smartphones is Wi-Fi, the point being made is certainly one to seriously ponder. Telecom competitors are strategically positioning against with things like VoLTE and integrated VoLTE and Wi-Fi.
Cadgwan goes on to explain the various advantages MSOs can leverage and things they need to do as Wi-Fi first movers. These include:
- The current Wi-Fi public deployment advantage.
- Increasing service delivery efficiencies, making the processes fast and seamless.
- Enhancing the customer experience in all aspects including activations, personalization and providing great customer service.
- Using their presence in the home as Wi-Fi providers to position themselves as the dominant broadband services company for the “connected home” thereby establishing a central position as the providers of choice for the “connected lifestyle.
The technology that will expand the MSO footprint in the home will rely on new capabilities, like the virtualized resident gateway. It will also support a number of tunneling protocols that connect Wi-Fi residential gateways (RGWs) to virtual RGWs or WLAN gateways.
In addition, as Cadwgan explains: “Soft Generic Routing Encapsulation has emerged as one of the industry’s leading choices for this protocol. It is now embedded in chipsets used in RGWs and deployed externally in Wi-Fi APs and controllers supplied by leading industry vendors. As a result cable MSOs will not be impeded by fixed access network dichotomies where costs and inefficiencies can slow deployment.”
As Moffett underscored, cable MSOs will use a combination of new technologies and extensive footprints, particularly in the home, which are extensible and allied with MVNOs. This will position MSOs well to provide a universally available end-to-end, secure and personalized broadband experience if they concentrate on Wi-Fi first.
How all of this shakes out given VoLTE, the coming of 5G, Wi-Fi mobile integrations, carrier aggregation, connected home, IoT requirements, etc., remains to be seen. That said, the battle to be the primary, rather than secondary provider, of choice is now fully engaged. How Wi-Fi is leveraged is a critical part of the arms race. The business models that emerge will be fascinating.
For additional information on Wi-Fi first and how MSOs can justify investments in its expansion, along with recommendations about what needs to be done to optimize the opportunities, check out two recent Alcatel-Lucent whitepapers:
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere