Feature Article

September 15, 2014

Seamless Call Handoff Between Wi-Fi, Mobile Will Boost Competition

It is a truism that access technologies have substitutes. Mobile is a substitute for fixed access. Wi-Fi is a substitute for mobile access.

Small cells are a substitute for macrocells. Wi-Fi can be a substitute for a small cell.

All those forms of substitution have potential revenue impact for contestants in the service provider business. For Illiad’s Free Mobile, the ability to use Wi-Fi to support its mobile service operations allows Free Mobile to operate at lower cost.

Comcast and Liberty Global expect similar benefits, as well as the creation of a wholesale product that can be sold to other service providers.

The ability to initiate a call on a Wi-Fi network and maintain the session when a caller leaves a building, allows mobile service providers with indoor coverage or network coverage issues to boost both user experience and effective coverage.

In the U.S. market, though every mobile service provider does face indoor coverage issues, especially on fourth generation networks operating at higher frequencies, some contestants are helped more than others by Wi-Fi call handoff to the mobile network, as well as mobile call handoff to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, for example, have rights to use more lower-frequency spectrum that provides better indoor coverage.

AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless also have bigger cell tower networks as well.

As all four leading U.S. mobile operators add the ability to seamlessly sustain call sessions across Wi-Fi and the core mobile network, that very development also will make it easier for competitors to challenge the “big four.”

Wholesale access is a routine business arrangement in the U.S. and most other markets. That means a new competitor can simply rent wholesale access from one of the four largest providers.

That feature is most advantageous for a new contestant with significant ownership of fixed network assets, since those assets can be leveraged to create Wi-Fi-first access that is easier for consumers.

Unified sign-on capabilities, such as Hotspot 2.0, provide examples.

The broad and important point is that new advancements in unified Wi-Fi and mobile networks also will enable more competition in the mobile business, not simply greater feature richness for customers of the incumbent providers.




Edited by Rory J. Thompson


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