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.



5GW News

dave rightStarting July 2017, all new articles are at The pols and the marketing folks have made "5G" a meaningless term so the name doesn't fit reporting on advanced wireless. This will stay so old links work. I've reported broadband since 1999 and now is the time for gigabit wireless. Catch a mistake or have news? Email me please. Dave Burstein