In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, Spectrum

In a discussion of delivering broadband quickly, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) noted that additional spectrum would be required.

“There is an urgent need to release new spectrum as soon as possible,” TRAI says.

While discussing ways to stimulate investment in fixed networks, the TRAI discussion document also illustrates an important point, namely that the difference between “fixed” and “wireless” access networks continues to blur, as mobile networks rely more on Wi-Fi and small cells, while most fixed network access uses Wi-Fi.

As early as 2012, global revenue had shifted to 59 percent mobile and 22 percent data services on the fixed network, with everything else representing 19 percent of revenue. In Asia, something less than 13 percent of revenue is earned from fixed network voice, while mobile constitutes 64 percent of total revenue.

As a functional matter, in the future, more and more bandwidth will be consumed using short distance and stationary untethered access such as Wi-Fi or small cells, but Wi-Fi will be disproportionately important.

Already, Wi-Fi is used to consume at least half of all mobile data.

In fact, one reason Comcast and other cable TV operators have activated huge networks of consumer-based Wi-Fi hotspots is that this creates a huge “small cell” network of sorts.

And that is the sort of network that could create a few new revenue streams. First, Comcast can sell access to individuals who want to use the public hotspot network, and are not Comcast customers already.

Second, Comcast can sell wholesale access to other service providers, overlaying a large small cell and backhaul network onto whatever other primary network a service provider uses.

Ultimately, additional spectrum and new network architectures using smaller cells will be crucial. In fact, Wi-Fi is an excellent example of a “small cell” approach, in many ways.

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