WiFi Calling About To Turn Carrier Business Model On It’s Head With Help From Google and Cablevision

WiFi calling news has started the New Year off with a major bang.  The big news in Q3/ Q4 of 2014 was of course the announcement of support for WiFi calling for all 4 major carriers and WiFi calling enabled on iOS 8.  Are the carriers too late though?  That is the question being asked by some industry experts who speculate that there are much bigger WiFi calling things at work here – primarily in the form of cellphone service that focuses on providing the best user experience with a large focus on WiFi calling(Finally!!!).  For the multifamily and assisted living industries, primarily, WiFi calling will have a major impact on the services expected by residents and tenants.  While both industries have been burdened by indoor cellular coverage issues that have up until now required expensive in-building cellular solutions, WiFi calling will allow building owners to provide residents and tenants with property-wide coverage for a price drastically less than DAS or CellBoost®.

Both Google and Cablevision are preparing for releases of two major product offerings that are sure to be wireless industry game changers.  with Cablevision’s service utilizing WiFi first as a platform for voice, data and text.  Here’s the skinny on the two offerings:

Cablevision: Cablevision is starting a WiFi-only mobile phone service called “Freewheel” which will allow for unlimited data/ talk/ txt for $9.95/ month for Cablevision subscribers and $29.95 for non-subscribers.

Google: Google’s service would utilize T-Mobile, Sprint and WiFi, locating the best available signal for voice, text and data usage.  This service will be offered nationwide and is expected to be rolled out in the first half of the year.

Both of these offers are massive shakeups to the wireless telecom industry and projects of what is to come.  For years the public has lacked choice in wireless and have been victims to the four major carriers and their exclusivity agreements.  The introduction of the WiFi unlicensed spectrum to the voice industry will undoubtedly provide the public with more choice and the market with more competition.  There have been start-up attempts to release WiFi-first devices by companies like Scratch Wireless and Republic Wireless, however these two offerings are the first major products from large, non-carriers.

Wireless experts are taking note of the impact that this “disruptive” technology will have on the industry and the companies themselves:

It’s a very aggressive move,” said Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, a company that is stitching together a network of millions of WiFi hotspots worldwide.  “You can image Google driving down the price to be disruptive and paying for it with revenue from other services that the company already provides, like search and advertising.”

To read more about this exciting wireless industry news: http://adage.com/article/media/google-cablevision-aim-upend-wireless-industry-wifi/296810/

 

 

The beginning of the end of cable TV

Recently Dish Network announced it’s new Sling TV package, an OTT service that allows for streaming TV and is targeting millenials.  Many news outlets are touting Sling as the beginning of the inevitable end of cable TV.  What makes Sling different from other streaming services – a whole heck-of-a-lot.  Up until now it’s been pretty common knowledge that while streaming TV and Movies is dragging more and more customers away from traditional cable packages – there are still those who are afraid to make the jump.  The common answer to the “Why do you still have cable?” question is typically:  I can’t watch my sports.  There have been work arounds to this with Sport-centered OTT applications like NHL game Center that provide access to major league sports.  The problem with major league sports steaming applications is that they cost a lot of money.

The great news is: Sling has ESPN!  This is huge news and with all the hype around Sling, it seems as though more and more Millennials will be making that final push from traditional cable services to full-on WiFi based TV, movies, music and Internet.  Here is “the dish” on Dish’s Sling TV:

  • only $20.00 per month live TV
  • 12 channels INCLUDING: ESPN, TNT, CNN, HGTV and DISNEY
  • Stream over WiFi and watch on your WiFi enabled device (TV, computer, mobile)
  • You DO NOT need to be  a Dish customer to subscribe to Sling TV
  • You can “add-on” bundles of other channels for $5/ month

Sling is a pioneer in TV streaming for sure – the NetFlix of television packages and hopefully, the beginning of a lot more streaming options for those who want to CUT THE CORD!

Read more details about Dish TV’s new Sling TV on Cnet

 

WiFi experiment shows just how unsafe WiFi “hotspots” can be

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UserSafe WiFi – Only From Spot On Networks. IF YOU CANNOT BE SEEN. YOU CANNOT BE HACKED.

On the streets of London, the German company, Finn Steglich set up a WiFi “hotspot” in pubic and waited for people to connect. When people connected to this unknown network, they received a splash page asking to accept a Terms and Conditions page to connect.  Many login pages for WiFi networks will use a splash page, whether it be Terms and Conditions, a password or other login method.  This DOES NOT make the network safe as the experiment proved.  Unbeknownst to the users they were accepting a Term & Conditions page that required they give up their first born child or favorite pet in order to be able to use the WiFi!  Many times WiFi small print will contain clauses that states information that is being transmitted can be seen, captured, shared or indemnifies the provider if a user’s data is hacked.

Now comes the scarier part…

Within only a half hour 250 devices had connected to this rogue hotspot.  Many of the connections were automatic without the owner of the devices even knowing it!  32 MB of personal data was collected during the experiment.  The problem with connecting to “hotspots”, even if they have a splash page, password protection or encryption, is that the users device is visible to other devices on the network.  If a device is visible – it is hackable.

For residential, hospitality, commercial and retail spaces it is absolutely essential to guard users from hacking and identity theft.  Client isolation technologies, like UserSafe™ technology, isolate each individual user on the network so that they are not visible to anyone else on the network.

Read more about the experiment here

Fast WiFi tops comfort for hotel guest in an amenity survey

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Do you remember the days of dial-up, the tedious process of connecting to America Online, that “You’ve got mail” alert signaling a piece of digital correspondence you have received while you were “off-line”? Most travelers who travled for business in the AOL era knew the headaches of rigging up connections to get news and stocks updates on their oversized laptops. The aforementioned concept seems almost foreign in 2014. In the ever-connected world of smartphones, tablets, lightweight laptops, internet users demand unlimited bandwidth, free wifi, unlimited downloads and virtually no disconnection times. And for various reasons, WiFi has topped every other amenity in the hotel industry.

A survey recently conducted by AMBA Hotels, the newest 4-star brand in UK, has found that free and fast WiFi tops the list of amenity factors that guest base their booking decisions on. Surveying 1000 participants, 67% stated the WiFi was the most important factor in their booking decision. It topped even a good night’s sleep at 58%, as well as friendly staff, which came in at much lower 40%.

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Guest ranked free WiFi as well as hotel’s location as the most important factors. 84% of guests reported suffering from the lack of fast WiFi. 33% stated that slow hotel internet has cause them to miss out on important work emails and 8% spoke of loss of business by not being able to communicate with their clients. 34% stated they wanted faster WiFi with unlimited downloads.

Lawsuit targets Comcast dual SSID routers

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As we have mentioned in the past, the building out of Comcast’s Xfinity WiFi network is being accomplished primarily through the activation of a second Xfinity WiFi SSID on consumer routers.  This practice has many consumers unhappy and questioning how it can be that Comcast is using its customers resources for it’s own gain: “Comcast Thinks Its Okay To Install Public WiFi In Your House”   A class action lawsuit has just been filed in California against Comcast.  Comcast never received authorization from its customer to broadcast a second public SSID from their homes and the lawsuit claims that:

“Indeed, without obtaining its customers’ authorization for this additional use of their equipment and resources, over which the customer has no control, Comcast has externalized the costs of its national Wi-Fi network onto its customers,” the court filing says. “The new wireless routers the Company issues consume vastly more electricity in order to broadcast the second, public Xfinity Wi-Fi Hotspot, which cost is born [sic] by the residential customer.” Comcast sued for creating public hotspots using private wireless routers — RT USA

For those who are unaware of the secondary Xfinity SSID – Comcast is working on building out its WiFi network, with a target of 8 million Xfinity WiFi hotspots accessible to Comcast subscribers.  These hotspots are not actually being built out by Comcast, they are being broadcast from paying subscribers home routers.  These SSIDs are being broadcast “opt-out” which means that they are broadcasting an Xfinity SSID as default in addition to the personal SSID of the Comcast subscriber.  Many consumers are not even aware that this is occurring, they simply see an Xfinity SSID when they scan for available WiFi networks and assume that it’s location is somewhere else – they don’t even realize it is being broadcast from their own home.  While consumers are technically able to “opt-out” from the secondary SSID, consumers are complaining that the opt out process is complicated, Comcast employees don’t know how to advise it and the links to opt-out are not even working.  While there are certainly questions as to the ethics of Comcast’s practices, there are also very valid concerns about the service impact on Comcast subscribers:
1. Utilizing Customer Resources For Their Own Gain: In addition using a router that the customer is paying for to build out their own network, Comcast is utilizing customer resources like electricity.  So a customer is paying a portion of their electric bill to cover Comcast’s WiFi network.

2. Service degradation: Because a router only has one bandwidth pipe going into it (bandwidth which the customer pays for based on their plan) that bandwidth is shared between the two SSIDs.  This can cause a decrease in service to the customer if a stranger logs on to the Xfinity SSID. This is something that Comcast recognizes, stating that because WiFi is a shared spectrum experience, there will be, “some impact as more devices share the network.”

3. Security: With hacking and spoofing an ever increasing threat to our personal security, of course consumers are deeply concerned about having strangers accessing WiFi on their personal router.  While Comcast, of course, is attempting to minimize the threat to security saying they utilize the same encryption as financial institutions, with companies like Home Depot, Bank of America, Chase and Target in the news for breach of personal security due to hacking – customers should be very concerned about what is Comcast is doing.

This is a big problem for Comcast subscribers in the MDU space whose secondary SSID could potentially be broadcast to very large amounts of people at any given time.  Until it become more clear as to what the legal implications of Comcast’s behavior might be, it is important that consumers be aware and know that they can contact Comcast to get this secondary SSID shut off.  Taken from the Comcast website:

How do I disable/enable the XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature?

We encourage all subscribers to keep this feature enabled as it allows more people to enjoy the benefits of XFINITY WiFi around the neighborhood. You will always have the ability to disable the XFINITY WiFi feature on your Wireless Gateway by calling 1-800-XFINITY1-800-XFINITY. You can also visit My Account at http://customer.comcast.com/, click on “Users & Preferences”, and then select “Manage XFINITY WiFi.”

 

Wireless Operators See WiFi Calling As “The Next Big Frontier”

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A recent article from fiercewireless.com addressed what wireless operators are calling: “The Next Big Frontier”: WiFi Calling.  Ruckus Wireless CEO Selina Lo was asked to comment on the industry excitement surrounding WiFi calling and expressed her belief that WiFi calling will be a “long term trend”:  “WiFi calling is definitely going to be a game changer in terms of service provider business models.  T-Mobile was the ground-breaker in terms of seeing the potential for WiFi as a vehicle for voice services, though their vision was early in the market when they debuted Hotspot@Home WiFi calling (which was discontinued around 2010).  T-Mobile’s pioneering, however, allowed them to be at the forefront of WiFi calling when the market was ripe and be the first carrier to say it will support WiFi calling on the iPhone.  Verizon and AT&T followed suit announcing that their networks will support WiFi calling in 2015 – the largest carriers simply can’t ignore the demand for seamless WiFi calling.

WiFi calling has been around for quite awhile, in one fashion or another, but the difference is that now the market is ready to take WiFi calling mainstream and WiFi calling has carrier support. It is the seamless carrier experience that will allow WiFi calling to garner mainstream acceptance.  Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, was quoted in FierceWirelessTech discussing the market change:

“Being able to make voice calls over WiFi is the final thing that you weren’t able to do… Your data worked over WiFi the same as it did over cellular, all your apps worked the same, but making a voice call never worked.  You had to use and over-the-top application like Skype.  Now with this being completely seamless, you can do everything on WiFi that you can do on cellular, and its also waking up all the large operators.  They’re looking now at how WiFi can be combined with their traditional network, so it’s a very good sign of things to come, and we are wonderfully enthusiastic about it.”

It is hard to comprehend how huge the last 6 months have been for the wireless industry.  With the cellular carriers no longer having control over voice a whole slew of voice options are open for industries that are wrought with poor cellular coverage, namely MDU/ MTU buildings and commercial properties.  If you are interested in a WiFi calling network for your property, contact us.

Inbuilding Cellular Solutions And WiFi Calling A Hot Topic at NMCH OpTech

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Among this year’s hot topics at the 2014 NMHC Op Tech in Orlando, was the debate over MDU/ MTU in-building cellular reception and who is responsible for solving the problem as well as what the actual effect poor indoor cellular coverage has on apartment occupancy.   There were varying opinions from building owners as to just how much business is lost due to poor cell reception in the buildings, but one thing was agreed upon: there is a lot of frustration among building owners that the poor reception problem has become theirs to solve, as indicated in NMHC’s recap article of the discussion.

“Scott Wesson, senior vice president and CIO of UDR, said that there are many examples of residents who absolutely need reliable connectivity to perform their jobs and it they can’t get it, will be dissatisfied and ultimately move.  A doctor on call, for example, must be reached on his cellphone.”

Building owners have been saddled with the high cost of Distributed Antenna Systems and frustrated by the uncertainty that comes along with rebroadcasting signal as, “there’s no guarantee that the cellular service provider will ultimately provide the authorization to rebroadcast, making the system functional”.

However, the white knight technology solution appears to be in the form of WiFi calling.  Building owners already need to be providing residents and tenants with WiFi for data offload, internet access, staff services and more.  Now, it looks like that same property-wide WiFi that is being used as a resident amenity will be able to provide a voice solution.

It means the four major carrier would effectively offer a voice calling facility that could be seamless to the user, meaning the user doesn’t know if he’s on the wifi or cell service,” explained Dick Sherwin, CEO of Spot On Networks. “It’s a cost effective way to implement voice calling.”

Read the entire NMHC recap

Airlines Show Thanks With Free WiFi This Thanksgiving!!!

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On Wednesday, November 26, eight airlines (and select airports) will be offering free WiFi for what is the busiest travel day of the year!  Being dubbed “Connection Day” by some, airlines are offering Free WiFi to travelers AND free digital content like music and magazines are being offered from Pandora, Amazon, Conde Nast and others.  A pretty nice gesture to help make the travel day a little more entertaining and a little less expensive.

If you are traveling this Thanksgiving holiday on one of the airlines below – enjoy the free WiFi access:

  • American, Alaska, Delta, Air Tran, United, US Airways, Virgin America: 30 minutes of free WiFi access
  • JetBlue: Free WiFi for your entire flight!!! (nice!)
  • Airports with Boing: Travelers will get free WiFi access in the airport for varying durations.

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LinkNYC to setup world’s largest free public WiFi

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both_link_modules.0WiFi has become an important pillar of our society, helping connect us like never before. It’s used in homes, small and large businesses, public areas such as parks and event venues as well as shopping centers. The next logical progression for WiFi is to provide service to the general public, helping those who can not afford internet access.

CityBridge is a consortium of companies in New York City joining forces to build LinkNYC, a network of WiFi pillars placed all over the city, providing access to free WiFi Calling nationwide, as well as a Gigabit access which promises to be 20 times faster than your home connection. Members of the CityBridge group include Titan, the Manhattan-based ad company that already maintains most of the city’s pay phones; Qualcomm, the telcom giant; Control Group, a design firm, and Comark, a hardware company.

“With this proposal for the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world – accessible to and free for all New Yorkers and visitors alike – we’re taking a critical step toward a more equal, open and connected city,” said Mayor de Blasio.

Columns placed curbside will feature table size screens that will allow the public to access city information, maps, and and free nationwide calling. Easy 911 and 311 calling will also be available as well as free device charging.

Privacy concerns have been raised, but the LinkNYC promises not to sell private data to other companies. Mobile users will have to consciously opt in using an app on their device. Advertising data will be used to modify targeted ads which are projected to generate somewhere around $1 billion dollars over 12-year period. And with a 50-50 split, the City of New York stands to pocket around $500 million.

References: 

New York City is building 10,000 internet pylons for free public Wi-Fi. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2014, “Hello, NYC? The future is calling via public Wi-Fi (editorial)”
http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/17/7235481/new-york-city-to-provide-free-gigabit-speed-public-wi-fi-for-everyone

The scary truth about Cable providers and dual SSIDs

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It’s undeniable, traditional cable subscriptions are on the decline.  With the availability of data streaming, Netflix, Amazon Prime and the internet in general generation Y does not like to pay a lot for TV.  This has left the cable companies scurrying to change their business model.  What is also undeniable is the increase in WiFi usage.  Cable companies want to get into the WiFi game and are touting large WiFi network expansions (Comcast alone touts “millions of WiFi hotspots” )that would have the average consumer believing that a lot of development is going into building out cable operator WiFi networks, like Xfinity.   What is actually occurring is entirely another operation – one that you, as a consumer, may have a lot more to with than you think.

The Truth About Dual SSIDs

When you activate the wireless router provided to you by the cable company you give your home WiFi connection a personal name, like: “Home”, “The Smiths” or even something funny like, “May The Force Be With You”, however, you will also notice that there is a second SSID or “guest” SSID named after your cable company, like “Xfinity”.  This guest SSID is one of the “millions of public hotspots” thats the cable companies are boasting about.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Those WiFi hotspots that cable companies are working so hard to build for their customers are actually… their customers.  Basically, you are subscribing to the cable service and then, via the router you are paying for, expanding the network of the company you are paying a subscription fee to.

Routers with Dual SSIDs Can Cause Problems for Connectivity/ Voice in MDUs

So, what does this mean in the MDU space?  Well, WiFi is a shared spectrum experience.  That means that the bandwidth available in one router is still split between SSIDs and users that are connected to it.  Whoever grabs the upstream first will be the one to have the best connectivity.  In an apartment setting where there is a high density of users, the likely hood that an Xfinity subscriber will be using your home router is much higher than in an individual residence.  In addition, WiFi voice coverage will suffer greatly with the cable company dual SSID approach.  For example: If you neighbor, two apartments down, has a guest who happens to connect to YOUR WiFi to stream a YouTube video and then you go to make a voice call – you may be out of luck.  The guest grabbed the upstream first and regardless  of who pays for the network, you are at a loss.

Comcast Admits This Approach Can Cause Problems!

Charlie Douglas, executive director of corporate communications at Comcast, confirmed that connectivity issues may be caused by the dual SSID approach and that “home hotspots could experience network congestion from guest users simply because of the way that WiFi works” as reported in the Light Reading article addressing this issue: How Home Hotspots Could Hit Hurdles

What Does This Mean for Voice Over WiFi/ WiFi Calling?

It means a lot, especially in an MDU or other high density environment.  It is important that WiFi routers have QOS and can prioritize voice packets over data.  Unless voice traffic is prioritized, voice service will suffer.  Users are used to seeing data buffering, but do not want to experience dropped or lost calls.  When it comes to MDU/ MTU WiFi – it should have bandwidth management and QOS.

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