By Claus Hetting, CEO Wi-Fi NOW.
The economics of delivering mobile services gets worse for every quarter. Now a new solution may be in sight: US-based startup Speedify just released an SDK that brings mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity together into a single, gapless connectivity experience. Here’s how this could bring big value to consumers, MNVOs, and carriers.
Spiral of doom creeps closer
It’s no secret that mobile carriers around the world are facing burgeoning traffic loads and mostly flat to negative revenues. This spiral of doom leaves little room for carriers to invest in much-needed network densification. A big part of the solution is for consumers (and carriers) to use what’s already out there and plentiful: Lots and lots of free Wi-Fi.
We’ve already seen great progress on Wi-Fi First-style services by the likes of Republic Wireless in the US. Thus far most of that technology has been about making sure voice calls don’t drop or break off momentarily when moving between mobile and Wi-Fi coverage.
Republic appears to have perfected this and is now operating a successful & growing US service provider business for cost-conscious consumers.
Speedify: Meet the tech bringing Wi-Fi & mobile data together
What still remains to be fixed is for Wi-Fi and mobile data to operate smoothly together on your phone. A new SDK developed by the Philadelphia-based startup Speedify does exactly that.
The Speedify SDK (and the Speedify app) is not so much ‘offload’ as bandwidth aggregation: It brings Wi-Fi and cellular data into a single stream on the device and adds security with a VPN and encryption. If one or other stream drops out, the data call continues. There’s no handoff involved and instead the solution takes care of keeping you connected to both, one, or the other at all times.
The first obvious benefit of this technology is that MVNOs relying on buying data in bulk from big carriers will save – and likely save big. The more MVNOs can get subscribers to use free Wi-Fi, the smaller the bill. Comcast recently claimed that US consumers expend 80% of their mobile data on Wi-Fi.
Consumers will likely continue to do that kind of manual ‘Wi-Fi offload’ by setting up phones to hook up to whatever Wi-Fi they can find, especially indoors. Now imagine the benefit of never dropping a data connection when moving between mobile & Wi-Fi coverage.
Then add to that never having to worry about someone hacking into your phone or eavesdropping on your data on public Wi-Fi networks. That’s what the Speedify SDK is about.
What would be the impact?
We can think of two real and existing cases where the benefit of the Speedify SDK would be significant: The first would be for Google Project Fi: This ‘network of networks’ uses lots of Wi-Fi (according to Google a million free hotspots are available) in addition to cellular.
Cellular gets you the coverage that you can’t live without and (free) Wi-Fi gets you all the data you will ever need. Now imagine making all of this gapless so that you don’t have to worry or even think about what you’re on nor care about data limits. The SDK even allows you to set policies for speed, reliability, or redundancy, Speedify says.
For Comcast’s new Xfinity Mobile, the case is similar: Comcast already says millions of Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots (mostly home and homespots) will carry most of the data. Now imagine never dropping a connection when you move in and out of Xfinity Wi-Fi coverage. That’s a real boost in user experience.
MVNOs have a lot to gain. But so do carriers.
Speedify’s technology is great for MVNOs like Google Project Fi and Xfinity Mobile both in terms of the user experience and for savings on buying data in bulk. But even major carriers would have a lot to gain from ‘offloading’ to Wi-Fi in this way.
‘Unlimited’ data plans are right now making carriers more dependent on Wi-Fi than ever. So systematically making it easy and problem-free for subscribers to use all the free Wi-Fi out there seems an obvious choice. It should be a welcome aid in relieving capacity pressure on cellular networks.