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Spectrum Blog

Effect of WiFi Off-loading Fri, Oct 18, 2013

For the past month I have been examining the effect of WiFi off-loading based upon my usage habits.  To do this leave WiFi turned off so my phone only receives data service from a commercial carrier network.  This was not a simple task because the Smartphone network optimizer will continue to request to have WiFi turned on and whenever you are using location services (Google+) not having WiFi provides a notification "to improve you location, please turn on WiFi".

My typical monthly data usage averages around 1.3 GB per month with WiFi enabled.  I travel infrequently and have WiFi both at home and work.  I think it is important to note that my work WiFi doesn't block YouTube, Pandora, Facebook, or WatchESPN, but I typically use a WiFi only tablet for music streaming or the watching a major sporting event e.g The America's Cup or the MBL playoffs.

In the month of September, I ran 5.7 GB of data in what I consider to be a typical work month.  What this equates to is 3.4 GB of data that was off-loaded from the carrier network to the WiFi network for which I also pay.  Another way to look at it is that my carrier only sees 1/3 of my usage.

Using some of the wholesale data rates that have been thrown around in the trade press, $5/GB; the cost to support my data usage through a WiFi Off-loading provider would be $17/month.  If I am paying my carrier $30/month for my data usage and they pay a Wi-Fi off-loading provider $17/month, they only end up with $13/month to offset their operational expenses (site leases, backhaul costs, employees...)

When you consider the "true" smartphone usage and where the majority of that traffic is handled today, it is clear why cellular carriers have been reluctant to purchase wholesale access to data or a WiFi off-loading partner.

Check back next month.  After my billing period closed, I spent the weekend out of town, so streaming two college football games on Saturday (Dish Anywhere) and 1 NFL game on Sunday will all be part of my October usage.  With just 9 days on my billing cycle, I have already consumed 3.3 GB.

Globalstar - Terrestrial Low-Power Service (TLPS) Tue, Jan 22, 2013

Globalstar's Proposed Terrestrial Low-Power Service (TLPS) has some well thought-out approaches.  Globalstar has petitioned the FCC to allow them to utilize their 2484-2500 MHz "Big Leo" satellite spectrum to provide terrestrial coverage.
Globalstar's spectrum lies directly above the 2.4GHz ISM band which hosts a vast majority of the WiFi in use today, as well as bluetooth and microwave ovens.  Directly above the Globalstar spectrum is the EBS/BRS spectrum controlled primarily by Clearwire.

Globalstar has proposed terrestrial operation on a the newly named AWS5 band.  It would essentially be a 4th non-overlapping WiFi channel (Channels 1,6,and 11 are the primary non-overlapping WiFi channels).  It would still be a 22MHz wide channel, using the ISM band above Channel 11 (which is lightly used) and about 10MHz of their AWS5 channel.  Globalstar believes that most existing WiFi devices could support this spectrum with a over-the-air software updates so a massive number of devices could be overloaded to this network once it is constructed.

Also intriguing is the improved performance characteristics of this spectrum.  First, since it is licensed to Globalstar, they can control the use of the spectrum.  They envision a carrier grade network using this spectrum that would manage Hotspot power levels and interference.  Since this spectrum has much less interference, it is capable of covering larger areas with higher speeds than typical WiFi.

If Globalstar can figure out the backhaul aspect to providing this service, I think they will have a leg up on other white-glove WiFi service providers since they are better able to manage the RF environment for their frequencies. It is conceivable that Globalstar would host WiFi overloading for all of the 4 national carriers.  I still see the biggest challenge to be in a residential environment where they envision a hotspot in my house being under their control, but likely on my cable internet service.  I'm pretty sure Comcast won't react well to my residential internet service supporting a commercial operation.

Is this a service that could be considered or expanded into the EBS/BRS channels that are adjacent to Globalstar's spectrum?  The answer is yes.  Clearwire has stated that they have excess spectrum.  I would anticipate that this would look like a private LTE network on Clearwire's spectrum versus WiFi on Globalstar's, but it would not be as feasible as Globalstar's proposal due to the current lack of devices that support LTE on the EBS/BRS frequencies.

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