Networks are about to get messy

Mobile & tablets

by Duncan MacRae| 02 June 2014

Are you ready for the future of connectivity?

We now live in a connected world, but that 'connectivity' is constantly evolving. How will it look tomorrow? Duncan MacRae picked the brains of Evan Kaplan, CEO at iPass - a cloud-based mobility management and Wi-Fi connectivity provider - to find out.

Who will own the networks of tomorrow?

There's no doubt that cellular networks will continue to be owned by the telcos. However, when it comes to Wi-Fi the answer isn't as straightforward. Wi-Fi is an organic thing that anyone can deploy.

As a result, we're starting to see power shifting from spectrum owners and traditional mobile network operators to 'real estate holders', such as airports, hotels, malls, retail locations, stadia, airplanes and the like. Most are taking their Wi-Fi networks into their own hands and are largely indifferent to who the network provider is. In addition, platform players are starting to come into this space. They can monetise Wi-Fi networks with advertising and services, and in the process, connect 'real estate holders' and business owners with their customers. The recent Google/Starbucks deal and some of the early Wi-Fi deployments by Microsoft's Skype and Facebook are revealing indicators of this trend.

At the same time there are a number of mobile network operators such as Orange, Zain, Etisalat, Telefonica and Deutsche Telecom that have seen Wi-Fi as an opportunity to complement their traditional voice and data services and increase revenues. When you consider segments such as the business traveller, who needs Wi-Fi for using high bandwidth applications like Skype and Salesforce when they are travelling abroad, the business case for operators becomes quite compelling.

Essentially, the very nature of Wi-Fi means that the only thing we can say with certainty is that ownership and management of the networks of tomorrow will be messy. With few barriers to entry and a number of different business cases for the deployment of public Wi-Fi, competition will be fierce. The winners will be those companies who can offer the user virtual networks on a global scale by creating a simple online experience where users can roam all over the digital world using a single ID and password.

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