Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Loving Wi-Fi to Death—Wireless Carriers Want to Commercialize Unlicensed Spectrum?

            Once upon a time, wireless carriers in the U.S. intentionally disabled handsets they sold/leased to prevent subscribers from using Wi-Fi in lieu of licensed and metered spectrum.  Time passes and demand for wireless spectrum skyrockets.  Apparently Verizon and other wireless carriers now so need more spectrum that they have unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum in their sights.  All to better serve consumers, of course.

            Can you see the irony here?  Rather than compete on price, wireless carriers used to emphasize quality of service, availability and signal strength.  They spent millions on advertising explaining the superiority of their networks and billions in acquiring licensed spectrum.  Now they seem to have come upon a strategy that uses spectrum that they cannot control and must share with home Wi-Fi users apparently with no diminution in service, or congestion.  No “tragedy of the commons” overconsumption, because the wireless carriers will have techniques to avoid interference—apparently without having to identify vacant spectrum before using it.

            If licensed wireless carriers had their way, there would be no unlicensed spectrum for voice and Internet access.  You should read their filings over the years explaining the catastrophic consequences of noncommercial, private and unlicensed spectrum use.  These carriers wanted to charge for Wi-Fi service.  Failing that gambit, they want to expropriate unlicensed spectrum and convert it from noncommercial private use to commercial, for profit use.  What a deal!  Is this country great, or what?

            Verizon et al will try to explain how access to Wi-Fi is essential, right now!  Of course they will try to frame the Wi-Fi option as having nothing to do with saving money, or  not having to invest in more spectrum.

            Carriers no longer seem concerned about offloading traffic and free riding on the broadband and wireless spectrum of others.  This practice used to be derisively termed “hot potato routing.”  Now it’s a clever and greedy gambit to avoid paying their fair share for the bandwidth and spectrum they use.

1 comment:

InfoStack said...

Funny, but few understand or speak to the fact that Steve Jobs single-handedly resurrected equal access in 2007 using a 1938 loophole in the Telecoms Law that provided "garbage" spectrum for shared use. This spectrum was considered garbage because it's the same frequency that water molecules resonate at and therefore provide MW ovens the ability to warm foods.

Anyway it happened because AT&T was desperate to close the performance gap with Verizon and with their lousy 3G coverage agreed to iOS autonomy and wifi offload for iPhone exclusivity. The OTT and app ecosystem genie was out of its bottle.

More importantly, as users and app developers could interact with fewer constraints usage exploded. And that not only pulled more 3G investment, it paved the way for 4G to develop more rapidly.

In fact, in every instance over the past 33 years where there has been mandated equal access or interconnection the incumbents have benefited, not been hurt, by the subsequent demand elasticity and ecosystem network effect.