Jean Paul Sartre by GrayJean-Paul Sartre died in 1980. There were fewer than a thousand cellphones in the world. The World Wide Web was a decade away. He's the most prominent existentialist philosopher. There's no obvious connection between his work and this analysis of the impact of Wi-Fi on telephone companies.

As I write in August, 2015, it's not clear whether the panic telcos are demonstrating about Wi-Fi is justified. Verizon is running scared about the risk they face from Wi-Fi offload. That's the most powerful signal that WiFi is a real threat. On the other hand, Cisco and AT&T continue to project 40%-50% growth in data demand for four or five years at least. I haven't seen any convincing data to the contrary.

They've turned around on the importance of telco small cells in high frequencies, presumably as part of a campaign to limit Wi-Fi. 

In the summer of 2014, Verizon was answering my questions about small cells in 3.5 GHz with a "probably not interested." CFO Shammo and others have made clear they have all the spectrum they need for the next few years' plans. A few months later, they emerged as the principal of a multi-million dollar campaign to enclose as much as half the Wi-Fi spectrum for telco use, LTE-U/LAA.

In particular, Verizon insists on deploying almost immediately, even before the standard is ready. Verizon and other Western telcos rarely use pre-standard gear unless they face an emergency. There's no emergency on spectrum, so I infer this is a political move. They are trying to create "facts on the ground" before policy people understand the threat to Wi-Fi and shut off the whole effort.

Cellular growth is falling in half, from 100%/year to 50%/year but the industry knew that was coming. The earlier high growth rates were an artifact of people getting their first smartphones. Cisco and especially AT&T have been predicting the fall-off in growth for two or three years. 

Bottoms-up, Wi-Fi First is clearly the most efficient way to build wireless networks. The lower cost of a network sending most of the traffic through existing home gateways changes all the economics. Iliad/Free in France is making a profit offering 20 gigabytes + unlimited text and sms for $20-25/month. Towers won't disappear because Wi-Fi is shortrange and can't reach everywhere.  Free has launched towers to 80% of France and is heading to 95% shortly. Coverage requires towers. But with most traffic going through gateways the cost per gigabyte plummets.

Interesting times.