Away from the hype of 5G, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is quietly connecting the world. And you have to wonder why so much effort is being expended in seemingly different directions.
The WBA realised some time ago that the real benefits of public WiFi would not be in the speed or location but in the sign-on process. A businessman having a meeting in a coffee shop does not want the inconvenience of signing up to the coffee shop’s WiFi, only to have to sign in at the train station and then the hotel.
The WBA’s initiative is called OpenRoaming and is designed to fix that problem. Backed by the ‘Usual Suspects’, it is a powerful, if quiet, initiative that will go a long way to bringing ever-greater connectivity to ever more people.
You almost have to wonder about whether the hype of 5G was worthwhile and whether, in a world which boasts ubiquitous WiFi, you really need it. Perhaps when standalone 5G appears for real next year, we will have that question answered. After all, this year telcos are concentrating on faster connections for their bandwidth-hungry customers.
We must now be close to full global mobile coverage, whether it is 4G or 5G or WiFi and, while the various players will talk up ‘interoperability’ and a seamless mobile experience, the fact is that companies who deliver different access technologies (whether from a balloon, a plane, a base station or a router) are in competition.
This, in turn, brings the whole question of connectivity back into the spotlight. Where there is competition, there will be competitive pricing which can easily become a price war and a price war is never a good thing in the long run.
Soon, connectivity will be a given (even, hopefully, in some areas of the UK) and we must hope that the service providers of whatever flavour can truly deliver value and innovation, together.
If they cannot then the noise and hype of 5G and the quiet WiFi revolution will not deliver the returns that investors require.