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%.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
WiFi 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.
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)”
Cable companies like Comcast are activating subscribers home wireless routers to broadcast two SSIDs, the subscriber SSID and a public hotspot SSID for guest/public use. This initiative, called the Community WiFi initiative, is a “shared spectrum experience” – which means that users on both sets of SSIDs, the subscriber and anyone who accesses the public hotspot, are sharing spectrum. This can cause serious performance issues for the subscriber (the person who is actually paying for the service & router). The problems that are being caused by individual routers broadcasting public hotspots was recently addressed in an article published by Light Reading: How Home Hotspots Could Hit Hurdles:
“Imagine a public user 50 feet away from an access point wants to upload a photo to Facebook while the owner of the home hotspot is trying to send email only 10 feet away. Because WiFi is egalitarian, if the guest user grabs the upstream channel first, it creates congestion on the network, making it difficult for the home subscriber to send email.” – CableLabs architect Vivek Ganti
This is very pertinent to the MDU/ MTU industry in regards to WiFi calling as a voice solution for residents. If a subscriber attempts to make a voice call from their apartment over an individual router, but another user is connecting to their guest SSID, the resident may not be able to make a call or service could be unreliable. In order for WiFi to work as a voice solution, it needs to be managed with QOS to ensure that voice service gets prioritized over the network and is not sacrificed for data. Learn more about WiFi Callling.
Comcast has admitted that home hotspots could experience network congestion when guest users log on to the public hotspots. Charlie Douglas, executive director of corporate communications at Comcast confirmed the issues, saying:
“‘If you were at a baseball stadium, and it was empty, and the WiFi was on, and you were there by yourself, you would have an amazing experience,’ but, he continued, if the stadium filled up, your experience would slow down.”
Douglas references exactly why network management and QOS are essential to not only voice service but to data usage as well over WiFi as well. There needs to be network management behind the scenes ensuring that bandwidth is being allocated for the usage that is occurring and that voice packets are prioritized over data packets.
Read the Light Reading Article
WiFi calling is undoubtedly a hit amongst its users. The VoLTE technology allows for better call quality inside buildings where coverage can be spotty if at available. VoLTE presented a solution to mobile service providers by giving its users access to the cellular network through millions of WiFi Hotspots, therefore reducing costs and network congestion. The outcome is a win win for the user. With no distinguishable difference in quality of service, callers can make and receive calls and texts without using any of their carrier minutes or incurring any additional costs.
What is VoLTE?
Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) has been developed to allow carriers worldwide to offer the same high-quality services over mobile as well as broadband through packetized voice and data on a next generation network architecture based on IP multimedia subsystem (IMS).
Calls originating on WiFi networks do not use carrier networks for access, offering the same access to services over both LTE and WiFi, while providing the same quality of services for its user. Utilizing the AMR-WB (Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband) sideband codec, VoLTE bring improved call quality with it’s wider speech bandwidth of 50 – 7000 Hz, which is about twice the bandwidth of PSTN Call
Base on 3GPP standard, VoLTE works with any client that utilizes the standard. Phones like iPhones and Androids will be offered by major carriers such as T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.
The maker of cockpit displays for Honeywell is under pressure from the goverment to replace the displays on older 777 and 737 models. Honeywell suggested to the FAA the need to replace displays due to several problems discovered during the year-long testing of on-board WiFi.
The need to replace displays comes from the wide-spread use of WiFi networks on board airlines not only by passengers, but also the crew. During the testing, screens flickered and sometimes went completely blank for up to 6 minutes.
The test problems occurred only on the ground, but highlighted the need to install WiFi-compliant screens to prevent issues mid-flight. According to Reuters screens will cost approximately $10,000, and will be replaced in about 1300 planes.
This is great news for business travelers and means that more and more airlines will be putting in WiFi networks for passengers.
T-Mobile USA’s newest feature, WiFi Calling, has had the cellular industry buzzing for quite some time. T-Mobile isn’t the only carrier to offer the service, but achieving seamless transfer from home or office WiFi to cellular carrier networks have not been a speedy process. T-Mobile announced this week that they have enabled the seamless WiFi calling option on iPhone 6, giving their customers a way to go from WiFi to T-Mobile’s Networks without disruption.
WiFi calling is nothing new. Companies like Google and Skype have long since offered their versions of Internet-based calls. The drawbacks to the aforementioned services such as Google Hangout ais that customers weren’t able to use their cellular phone numbers. T-Mobile has developed a way for your cellphone to go from WiFi directly to T-Mobile’s network.
Having one of the smallest networks in the US, T-Mobile has been faced with a uphill battle competing on the American market. Due to it’s reduced network capacity, T-Mobile was known for dropped calls and lack of coverage area. This new addition to it’s service offerings gives T-Mobile customers a boost in signal reception by allowing them to utilize their WiFi network to send and receive calls and text messages.
No other carrier is offering a strong WiFi-Calling service such as T-Mobile, in part due to what bigger carriers such as Verizon and AT&T describe as the lack of need due to a much larger coverage areas. But where the larger carriers fall short is the poor reception areas such as apartment and office buildings constructed with Green Building materials that help trap energy in, while insulating the interiors from the elements. These materials also block out wireless signals. This is where T-Mobile is sure to pickup disenfranchised customers who pay high monthly costs of Verizon’s or AT&T’s service plans while missing out on coverage places they use their phones most. Allowing their customers to use WiFi calling gives T-Mobile a network coverage boost as well as helps them retain clients who would otherwise switch services due to poor reception. It also greatly improves their customer satisfaction in the Multi-Dwelling Units (Apartment and Office Buildings). Overall, this move signals a “win-win” for T-Mobile in what amounts to be as one of the most effective ways to improve network usability.