In wireless, technology is great, but spectrum is everything. That’s been the cry from the telco camp for serveral years now as the demand for data access has increased (the usual construction adds ‘exponentially’: except it hasn’t, it’s been going up by about 50 per cent per year, give or take) and shows no signs of slowing. So telcos have been asking for more spectrum and talking about new technologies as well.
Now, since the cell/WiFi rivalry is well and truely out in the open (the GSMA recently produced a paper extolling the virtues of licensed spectrum) what looks like an increasingly coherent camp of cable companies, WiFi network specialists, retailers and online content providers are shouting hard for more spectrum for WiFi, on the basis that if you start shouting now, you might get your way in five to 10 years’ time.
The result is a coalition called WiFiForward whose members include Google and Microsoft along with Broadcom and retailer Best Buy as well as cable companies Comcast and Time Warner. This is probably a list that will grow and grow.
The big US cable groups have already been cooperating on building out WiFi hotspots across which their subscribers can roam.
And now, as if to emphasis the way this is shaping up, an agreement between the two biggest cable guys, Comcast and Time Warner, might see the latter bought by the former for a whopping $45 billion if the regulators let the deal through. That would represent a very large cable footprint across which WiFi homespots and hotspots could be integrated into a single network to offer increasingly contiguous service.
The goals of the WiFiForward group are pretty straight-forward, although as yet it seems to be limiting itself to a US political focus.
It describes itself as “an ad hoc, broad-based group of companies, organizations and public sector institutions working to alleviate the Wi-Fi spectrum crunch and to support making Wi-Fi even better by finding more unlicensed spectrum.
The WifiForward coalition will marshal support to:
protect and strengthen existing unlicensed spectrum designations;
free up new spectrum for unlicensed use at a variety of frequencies, including low, medium, and high frequency bands; and
establish investment-friendly, transparent and predictable unlicensed rules that encourage growth and deployment.”
Perhaps MWC will see a “rest of the world” group formed to make it an international push.