Wi-Fi offload and the $2 trillion dollar question


Wi-Fi offload is not dead – it just goes by a new name. That name is ‘mobile/Wi-Fi convergence’. And yes, it’s not as buzzy, plus the whole idea comes with a twist.

Here’s the narrative:

You’re mobile device is chewing up Wi-Fi like it’s going out of style for two reasons: The first is cost and the second is performance. The cost (to the consumer) of Wi-Fi is generally either zero or perceived as zero (since it’s included in your cable or other broadband plan). In the worst case you can do pretty well with a little skill and a $200 router for your home.

In most cases Wi-Fi performance beats cellular by a wide margin. Certainly this is the case in your home & office, and it would also be the case in public spaces if more venues would spend (a little!) more money on getting Wi-Fi right. Most often it’s not even about money, it just needs a bit of applied knowledge.

Consumers gravitate towards Wi-Fi because of Moore’s Law: The free falling cost of information. Wi-Fi is the only wireless tech that can keep up with it and Wi-Fi is doing this at a rate that completely outpaces cellular.

And get this: There’s nothing that can be done to stop this free fall – it’s fundamental to the tech revolution that started 60 years ago. The only way any business or service provider will add value going forward is to embrace it.

Here are the two big Wi-Fi challenges: Coverage & always on. Wide-area coverage is very difficult (at least at this time) with Wi-Fi and consequently, always on is also hard. The fix to Wi-Fi’s two big problems is cellular. At the same time, the fix to cellular’s big problem (cost of capacity) is Wi-Fi.

So Wi-Fi & cellular is really the perfect marriage.

The value of the global mobile service provider industry (revenue) is 2 trillion dollars. So here’s the two trillion dollar question: Who is going to make this very sensible (and disruptive) marriage in wireless connectivity happen?

I don’t have the answer to that but I do believe (with about 90% certainty) that it’s not going to happen from the network side. It will happen from the device & content delivery side.

Someone will fix the Wi-Fi/cellular always-on seamless connectivity problem and whomever does that (if they can get their positioning in the ecosystem right, and this is not easy) will win.

There are 2 trillion dollars at stake here. Place your bets, people.

Don’t forget: Wi-Fi NOW the conference is coming up in Amsterdam next month. There’s still time to make plans to join us on November 17-19! We’ll be diving into this issue and a lot more. Check out the website here.


  1. Phil Cootey says:

    This is exactly what Forager Networks believes. We have been saying this for years. The term was “intelligent offload” The blind offload problem is still out there, where operators don’t trust Wi-Fi. Analytic platforms, distributed systems, give the assist that these handoffs and operators need.

    Devices need help to pick the best network, to save on power and optimize network selection. But not instructions, let the device figure it out. The device knows what network is the best to connect to, it’s always in the right time and place.

    The trick with smart phones is power, you can’t be scanning for WiFi all day long. Technologies with activity recognition, and other power saving algorithms, and assistance from distributed systems, make these type of handoffs possible, without killing the battery.

    We enable the device to make the right decision at the right time and place; onboard intelligence, rather than telling it what networks to connect to. We focus on interoperable handoffs between networks; in place network decisions, which allow the device to bridge Wi-Fi and Cellular networks.

    Then there is the streaming solution, continuous connectivity between networks. How do the packets keep up? Ask us how.


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