In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, Spectrum

For every public purpose, there is a corresponding private interest. That is as true for Wi-Fi policy as for any other public policy. At stake is the notion that some potential devices and users of Wi-Fi capacity–even if they fully comply with all rules about signal interference, should not be able to get access, essentially.

Long Term Evolution-Universal, using one of several proposed protocols, would allow bonding of LTE mobile network capacity with some Wi-Fi capacity.

Some major app providers, including Google, and some Internet access providers, especially cable TV companies, oppose deployment of any of the LTE-U protocols.

There are valid public policy issues, to be sure But the clash of private interests cannot be dismissed. Basically, the major parties to the debates are interested in exploiting, or protecting, a perceived source of business advantage.

Mobile service providers see a way to create a higher-quality mobile experience, and possibly turn “free” Wi-Fi access into an incremental revenue stream, with measurable reductions of capital investment related to supplying capacity.

App providers and cable TV interests see a threat to the value of present interests. Cable TV operators creating big public Wi-Fi networks arguably want to preserve the exclusivity, scarcity, and therefore potential revenue potential of their Wi-Fi networks.

App providers that rely on Wi-Fi as low-cost ways to support large Internet audiences, might worry about degradation of experience if mobile devices connect using LTE-U (or some other similar protocol) instead of using native Wi-Fi, which smartphones already can do.

Beyond that, some app providers or device suppliers might see an eventual use of Wi-Fi to support their mobile access businesses. In that event, forms of mobile operator Wi-Fi access that leverage Wi-Fi more directly could nullify some of the advantage app, device or cable TV suppliers might expect.

Such concerns might especially be heightened in markets where mobile operators already represent the main way people get access to the Internet, such as in India. LTE-U would allow mobile operators to use Wi-Fi assets even more effectively than they already do.

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