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Google, CableVision, FreedomPop and Republic Wireless Bypass Cellular Networks with Wi-Fi, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Wi-Fi routers can be used to supplement, and in some cases replace, traditional cellular tower networks for cellphone and internet service.  Global mobile was 9.8% of total internet traffic in 2016, and will be 20.5% of total internet traffic in 2021. according to Cisco.  Globally, mobile data traffic will reach 48.3 Exabytes per month in 2021, up from 7.2 Exabytes per month in 2016.  Two small U.S. firms, Republic Wireless and FreedomPop, offer mostly router-based service to hundreds of thousands of users.  Wi-Fi routers afford users with extremely cheap phone service, but connections are easily lost when users move between routers and sound quality can be poor.

Despite these limitations, Google is working with a Wi-Fi/cellular hybrid offering it calls Project Fi.  Google’s ultrafast 1 GB Fiber internet network had been deployed in a small number of cities.  Google is taking advantage of this network to offer high speed Wi-Fi connections to mobile phone subscribers.  In addition, it is renting space on T-Mobile’s cellular network, for use when its mobile phone customers can’t access Wi-Fi.  Google advertises that it can make available more than 1 million, free, open Wi-Fi hotspots that they have verified as being fast and reliable.  Google also offers Hangouts, a messaging app that could substitute for traditional texting service and Google Voice, an internet app that could be used to place calls.  Google is betting that its $0.20 per minute service for basic voice and text (plus a flat $10 per gigabyte monthly cellular data fee) will give traditional carriers such as AT&T and Verizon a run for their money.

Verizon Communications and T-Mobile USA use technology called LTE U that can broadcast cellular signals over Wi-Fi.  T-Mobile launched the Samsung Galaxy S8, the first handset to support LTE U in 2017.  The launch came after a 2016 battle in which LTE U detractors argued that the technology might harm Wi-Fi signals.  In response, the Wi-Fi Alliance and other manufacturers came up with a test plan in which LTE U is beamed in unlicensed spectrum.  In early 2017, the FCC announced the authorization of the first LTE U devices in the 5 GHz band.



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