"We have been talking about small cells for a long time now, but when are operators going to deploy them for real?" is a question I often get. True, I also used to get the same question about Wi-Fi hotspots, and, even though it was a somewhat slow process, today every smartphone has Wi-Fi and can find some way to connect to a Wi-Fi network.
The trend toward providing public Wi-Fi access from residential gateways for offloading and hotspot services is catching on. While I understand the sense in taking the gobs of unused broadband bandwidth being delivered to private residences and making it available for widespread use, I nonetheless see some issues that could impact this trend's broad adoption in the United States.
Madrid-based Gowex, which offers free municipal Wi-Fi service in some 80 cities worldwide, launched what it is calling a new social Wi-Fi network in New York City, which the company hopes will lead to more partnerships with mobile and fixed broadband providers.
It is no secret that U.S. cable TV operators are jumping into Wi-Fi big time, and one industry executive is predicting they could collectively deploy and run half a million Wi-Fi hotspots in the near future.
Madrid-based Fon, which encourages users to share their Wi-Fi router signal with others in exchange for free access to other Fon hotspots around the world, jumped into the U.S. market with a new router that accepts Facebook credentials in lieu of a password.
Cable operator Comcast announced a massive rollout of new Wi-Fi hotspots across Utah, and the company expects to add more sites in the state as time goes by.
After years of fits and starts, demand for cellular/Wi-Fi roaming appears to be reaching a fever pitch, which is in turn driving companies and standards groups to respond with solutions they say will allow smartphone users to blissfully travel across Wi-Fi networks with all of the same services (like voice, texting and so on) they are used to receiving while on cellular networks.
Apple's new iPhone 5s and 5c devices may lack support for the emerging 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, but support for Hotspot 2.0, which enables automatic, seamless roaming between Wi-Fi hotspots, could be a game changer.
Time Warner Cable is becoming a growing force in wireless, building its business of providing backhaul for wireless towers as well as expanding its own Wi-Fi hotspot footprint.
Google offered to donate $600,000 to install free Wi-Fi hotspots in 31 public spaces around San Francisco, but the city, concerned about ongoing costs it might have to shoulder, is approaching the offer cautiously.