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The CEO of RoamAD, the mesh Wi-Fi network provider, is making some bold statements about how voice over Wi-Fi can compete with 3G: While I find voice over Wi-Fi compelling, I think it’s a mistake to suggest that it will seriously compete with the cellular networks. Voice over Wi-Fi could steal some significant business from the cellular operators but it is unlikely to essentially replace the cellular services. Voice over Wi-Fi could work quite well if it’s married with cellular so that customers can use the Wi-Fi network where available but roam onto the cellular networks which already offer significant coverage. Otherwise the Wi-Fi services will be quite geographically limited, at least for the medium term. Historically, we’ve seen a few technologies or companies try to target a local service and none has done particularly well. For example, Leap Wireless has a strategy of offering cellular only on a local basis to customers in certain markets. The company recently reorganized under bankruptcy protection, sold a bunch of licenses, and signed a roaming agreement with Verizon to allow customers to roam.
The Personal Handyphone Systems in Japan are another good example. PHS, which had small coverage areas, declined dramatically with the introduction of cellular technologies. Mobile Media Japan has a good timeline of sorts following the fate of PHS. The technology has recently seen a bit of a renaissance, but as a way to target the very very low end of the mobile phone market. The regions where PHS might be successful are not the same areas people are talking about introducing voice over Wi-Fi on a wide scale.
Posted by nancyg at April 4, 2005 5:50 AM
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