There was plenty of activities by the Wireless Broadband Alliance in the last weeks. Starting off with the worldwide celebration of Wi-Fi day and culminating with the Wireless Global Congress in Liverpool and the awards to a number of innovative projects and players involving Wi-Fi to help connect the unconnected. The WBA launched the Connected City Advisory Board (CCAB) last year, with the aim to drive engagement and developments of Public Wi-Fi with Connected and Smart Cities, Regions etc. through best practices, creation of public-private ecosystems and collaboration mechanisms for resource contribution. Therefore, the participation by various city representatives to the Connected City Summit contributed to having a real life example of how cities are embracing Wi-Fi to better serve their citizens from New York City to Kigali in Rwanda.
I had the privilege to chair the Wi-Fi Anywhere, Everywhere afternoon session which included my own presentation about the urban unconnected as well as great presentations from Mark Kinlen, Vice President for Technology Strategy for Liberty Global, Enrique Farfán, COO, Fon about Delivering Wi-Fi services from the cloud, and Necati Canpolat Sr. Staff, Intel Communication and Devices Group detailing the key findings of the newly released white paper on Wi-Fi calling by the WBA now available for download. The paper discusses the significant role Wi-Fi calling can play in addressing industry issues such as coverage, as well as highlights the gaps in the market to help promote the deployment, use and growing momentum of Wi-Fi calling. According to the WBA, the key business drivers and market opportunities Wi-Fi calling presents include:
- Wi-Fi calling offers huge CapEx and OpEx savings and is a customer retention tool for mobile operators
- VoWi-Fi will be a key component of 5G to deliver converged services over any access networks
- Wi-Fi calling enables Multiple System Operators (MSOs) to leverage Wi-Fi networks to offer their wireless services
- VoWi-Fi complements VoLTE as it uses the same IMS core and reuses VoLTE investment and devices
The WBA will be initiating the development of an end-to-end Wi-Fi calling specification, as well as standards, certification and trials for the industry, to enable operators to deliver a scalable, reliable and standard-based solution. It remains to be seen how these specs will fit into the whole 5G picture.
Liberty Global which is the largest international cable company with operations in 14 countries, claims it has quite a diverse set of Wi-Fi experiences including operations inherited from the Virgin media acquisition such as subway, and SMBs. Kinlen insisted in pushing for standards adoption both at the infrastructure and device/chip level as well as continuing in testing business models. Having an extensive & deep metropolitan fiber network has become a must-have for successful WIFI deployments putting fixed broadband providers at an advantage over their pure play MNOs with no substantial wireline assets.
FON dove into their strategy of delivering Wi-Fi services to different market segments with distinct needs from the cloud. In particular, Enrique reminded the audience that OTT solutions are not a great choice for cloud based Wi-Fi services because they tend to be vendor-specific, provide a fragmented experience between public, work and home Wi-Fi and retain the loyalty to themselves (the OTTs) The Vodafone Spain case study served to illustrate the integration of Wi-Fi with the service provider OSS/BSS to serve different segments (including cities) with tailored offerings.
The topics around the discussion included the different implementation challenges both at the infrastructure and device level that sill remain despite the pervasiveness of Wi-Fi.
The event was also the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of a number of projects and players which distinguished themselves. I had the privilege to be one of the judges and it was very interesting t dive in to the details of some many diverse projects.
Winners of the awards Categories 2016 were:
- Liquid telecom for Best Wi-Fi Deployment to Connect the Unconnected in Rural Environment in Kenya
- Transit Wireless/ BAI Communications for Best Wi-Fi Deployment to Connect the Unconnected in Urban Environment in NYC metro
- NYC/Intersection for best product or service to Connect the Unconnected in the city of New York
- Project Isizwe for most Innovative City or Government Program to bridge the Digital Divide in Souh Africa
Congrats to winners and companies shortlisted. The next WBA event is set to return to San Jose on November 14-18, 2016.