Just before the industry convened in Barcelona, Spain, for Mobile World Congress 2017 at the end of February, Boingo Wireless CTO Derek Peterson issued a manifesto (PDF) calling for industry collaboration and the coexistence of licensed and unlicensed spectrum for a more seamlessly connected society.
The call to action had the desired result of getting the conversation started. “I think everybody agrees there’s a lot more collaboration needed for us to be able to create the seamless connected society that we’re all trying to aim for,” Peterson told FierceWirelessTech.
Boingo is uniquely qualified to kick-start the conversation given that it has a stake in both the Wi-Fi and LTE worlds. The company got its start in 2001 when co-founder Sky Dayton set out to address the then-fragmented Wi-Fi situation. In 2007, the company acquired Concourse Communications Group, expanding its presence at airports. The company now covers a host of military bases as well and considers itself the world’s largest provider of indoor Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS).
One of the things Boingo supports is aggregating different bands. “We really need to have smart network connectivity,” Peterson said. “We’ve got to move beyond just having two networks out there operating independently, like we do today with Wi-Fi and cellular.”
Boingo is a member of the CBRS Alliance, which is focused on the 3.5 GHz space in the U.S., and it was the first operator to join the MulteFire Alliance, which advocates for an LTE-based technology for small cells operating in unlicensed spectrum. Both are seen as providing new use cases and opportunities to deploy LTE for mobile operators, venues and neutral host providers like Boingo.
The MulteFire Alliance released its Release 1.0 specification to its membership in January and will make it available to the public in April. Release 1.0, which is based on 3GPP Releases 13 and 14, defines how LTE operates in unlicensed and shared spectrum while promising to ensure fair sharing of spectrum with other users and technologies such as Wi-Fi.
Peterson is now in the role of board member and chairman of the CTO Group (CTOG) for the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), which has been redefining its working relationships with standards groups so that collaboration will drive everyone forward. There’s a joint workshop with the Wi-Fi Alliance this month where they will be testing multiple technologies from both groups in an effort to push Passpoint technology forward. That’s just one example where collaboration is happening where it wasn’t before.
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The IEEE, the standards group behind Wi-Fi, is making an effort to get more participation with the cellular standards group 3GPP as 5G standards are being developed, which is something Boingo can get behind. “Anything we can do to bring us closer together helps,” Peterson said.