Sky steps up its Italian Job

Sky Italia has confirmed it will expand its broadband footprint in the Italian market as it seemingly eyes up the convergence dream.

Through its relationship with Open Fiber, Sky Italia has said it will offer broadband services to customers in 120 towns and cities. Known as Sky WiFi, the fibre service ranges between €29.90 to €37.90 a month, but it also has a relationship in place to deliver services with FastWeb, taking advantage of full-fibre, fibre-to-the-cabinet and fixed wireless technologies to fill the holes the Open Fiber partnership cannot plug. This is the first step towards Sky Italia becoming a multi-service provider.

In Sky’s most successful market, the UK, the convergence strategy has been evolved over many years. According to Omdia’s most recent data on the firm, Sky currently has just over 6.2 million broadband subscribers as well as 11.3 million Pay TV customers. Sky UK has also launched its own MVNO service, though the team is staying quiet on subscription numbers.

Convergence is a proven strategy to increase the profitability of customer relationships which also improving retention. It has not only paid off in the UK, but Sky’s parent company Comcast is also an avid practitioner of the strategy. One might question whether an increased drive towards the broadband market in Italy are the first steps towards rolling this business model out across the European footprint.

Sky customers, Europe (thousands), 2019-end
Country Pay TV OTT Service Fixed Voice Broadband
Austria 451
Germany 4,850 500
Ireland 690 194 200
Italy 4,985
Spain 100
UK 11,342 6,386 6,219

Source: Omdia Knowledge Centre, World Information Series

The broadband expansion in Italy is one step to expanding services across Europe, and it would appear to be a logical step. The bundling strategy has already proven successful in the UK, and it would be a safe bet to presume the same plans are being lined up for some sort of launch in other markets.

According to research from Bain and Company, customer retention is critical for a business nowadays. For every 5% increase in customer retention, the firm suggests there is a 25% jump in profitability. When you combine these statistics with the idea that acquiring new customers is 60-70% more expensive than cross-selling services to an existing customer base, the convergence business model starts to make much more sense.

Clearly bundling services is an opportunity, one which should be seen as very attractive to Sky. In numerous markets across the European bloc, the team has done the hard job, creating credibility to start a business, the mission now is to expand on these foundations. It can fail, and fail quite spectacularly when you look at BT’s continued efforts to crack content, but the roadmap is already there with the UK firm’s success.

Convergence makes sense to a company like Sky as delivering an effective and comprehensive platform is more difficult that running a connectivity service over another company’s network infrastructure. This is certainly a dumbed down approach, but one is a value service and the other is becoming increasingly commoditised.

Sky is not willing to share the ins and outs of its European strategy for the moment, but if it not considering the convergence model championed in the UK across its entire footprint, the strategies should be ushered towards the exit sharpish.

A look back at the biggest stories this week

Whether it’s important, depressing or just entertaining, the telecoms industry is always one which attracts attention.

Here are the stories we think are worth a second look at this week:


Facebook reignites the fires of its Workplace unit

Facebook has announced its challenge to the video-conferencing segment and a reignition of its venture into the world of collaboration and productivity.

Full story here


Trump needs fodder for the campaign trail, maybe Huawei fits the bill

A thriving economy and low levels of unemployment might have been the focal point of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, pre-pandemic, but fighting the ‘red under the bed’ might have to do now.

Full story here


Will remote working trends endure beyond lockdown?

It is most likely anyone reading this article is doing so from the comfort of their own home, but the question is whether this has become the new norm is a digitally defined economy?

Full story here


ZTE and China Unicom get started on 6G

Chinese kit vendor ZTE has decided now is a good time to announce it has signed a strategic cooperation agreement on 6G with operator China Unicom.

Full story here


ITU says lower prices don’t lead to higher internet penetration

The UN telecoms agency observes that, while global connectivity prices are going down, the relationship with penetration is not as inversely proportion as you might think.

Full story here


Jio carves out space for yet another US investor

It seems the US moneymen have a taste for Indian connectivity as General Atlantic becomes the fourth third-party firm to invest in the money-making machine which is Jio Platforms.

Full story here


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Can the sharing economy (ride-sharing, short-stay accommodation etc.) survive COVID-19?

Loading ... Loading ...

O2 and Virgin Media are merging to form BT-busting connectivity giant

Telefónica and Liberty Global have confirmed plans to merge UK operations, O2 and Virgin Media, to challenge the connectivity market leader BT.

Since the end of the Supply Chain Review, the UK telecoms market has been relatively mundane, operating as one would largely expect, however this merger throws a cat amongst the pigeons. All of a sudden, the UK has become on the most interesting markets to watch, with the promise of a second convergence connectivity business to rival market leader BT.

“Combining O2’s number one mobile business with Virgin Media’s superfast broadband network and entertainment services will be a game-changer in the UK, at a time when demand for connectivity has never been greater or more critical,” said Telefónica CEO Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete. “We are creating a strong competitor with significant scale and financial strength to invest in UK digital infrastructure and give millions of consumer, business and public sector customers more choice and value.”

“We couldn’t be more excited about this combination,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global. “Virgin Media has redefined broadband and entertainment in the UK with lightning fast speeds and the most innovative video platform. And O2 is widely recognized as the most reliable and admired mobile operator in the UK, always putting the customer first. With Virgin Media and O2 together, the future of convergence is here today.”

Talks emerged earlier this week, though they certainly got to the official confirmation stage quicker than many were expecting.

As part of the agreement, a 50-50 joint venture will be created, with the promise to spend more than $10 billion on network development over the next five years. Synergies are expected to be as much as £6.2 billion, with 46 million subscribers, 15 million homes passed for broadband, 99% population coverage for mobile, 18,700 employees and £11 billion in revenue.

Full details on the deal can be found on a new website, proudly proclaiming the creation of a national digital champion.

This all sounds very promising, but when the merger is complete in mid-2021, which brand will survive?


What should a merged O2/Virgin Media company be called?

Loading ... Loading ...

“In the long run, we believe it would be better for the JV to retain the O2 brand at the expense of Virgin Media,” said Kester Mann of CCS Insight. “Both have a strong presence, but O2’s respected customer service, highly loyal customers and sponsorship of the O2 arena mean it is impossible to drop. A multi-brand approach serves only to duplicate costs and risks confusing customers.”

For convergence to work, there can only be one brand which survives. BT’s £12.5 billion of EE has arguably not paid off to date as the two brands still exist, effectively creating two separate business units inside the same group. There might be convergence benefits from an operational perspective, but to realise the gains from a customer and commercial angle, the businesses have to be fully consolidated and coherent.

BT has never really been able to take advantage of its assets. It has the largest mobile network, the largest broadband network, the largest public wifi footprint and the largest bank accounts to throw cash at content. Its inability to evolve into a convergence-defined business has opened the door for O2 and Virgin Media. But the question is whether the duo can learn from these mistakes.

Ultimately this is a major threat to the BT business, not because this is a combination which can potentially match the scale and depth of BT services, but these are also two currently healthy businesses which are coming together.

Financial Results for O2 and Virgin Media to March 31 (UK sterling (£), millions)
O2 Virgin Media
Total Year-on-year Total Year-on-year
Revenue 1,739 2.9% 1,266 -0.6%
Profit 516 2.4% 84 >1000%

Sources: Liberty Global Investor Relations and Telefonica Investor Relations

Usually, when mergers and acquisitions are discussed, one of the parties is a significantly stronger position than the other. It can still be good news, but there is plenty of work to do during the integration stages to ensure the new company is fighting fit. This is not the case with O2 and Virgin Media.

Virgin Media might have experienced a bit of a downturn over this three-month financial period, but this could likely be attributed to dampened customer acquisition amid the COVID-19 outbreak, while O2 has demonstrated year-on-year increases once again.

While these are healthy businesses right now, some might have suggested limited success in the convergence game would have caught up eventually. This is a very encouraging move forward, getting ahead of negative impacts, though a renewed assault on TV/content is needed. Neither, despite what Virgin Media claims, have done very well in this segment.

Current subscriber numbers for O2 and Virgin Media
Mobile Broadband Content
O2 35,266,217 29,085 *
Virgin Media 3,179,500 5,271,000 3,687,400

Source: Omdia World Information Series

*Too early to tell how successful the partnership with Disney+ to add a content element to O2 bundling has been

One area which should be allocated to the risk column, though it is a very minor risk, is the prospect of regulatory intervention.

“Unlike when O2 attempted to join forces with Three in 2015 but was blocked by the European Commission, I don’t expect there to be any major hurdles to this deal going through,” said Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk. “After all, with BT’s purchase of EE given the all-clear in 2016, it’s difficult to see how a case could be made to block it.”

These are both telecoms companies, but service overlap is minimal. Core competencies lie in different segments, and while there have been attempts to launch into parallels, success has been woeful. These are complementary companies with little material service overlap.

When considering whether competition authorities will be interested, you have to ask whether the merger would make single business units stronger or is the company stronger by association with parallel services. O2’s mobile business will not be enhanced materially by Virgin Media’s MVNO proposition, and Virgin Media will not benefit from O2 at all in the fixed connectivity game. There does not seem to be any case for objection on the grounds of competition.

Aside from the direct impact for both Virgin Media and O2, the rest of the market could be spurred into action.

“Vodafone UK appears the biggest loser as the deal lays bare its weak position in the market for converged services,” said CCS Insight’s Mann. “It also looks certain to scupper its virtual network partnership struck with Virgin Media in 2019. We think this deal will trigger a ripple effect on the UK market: Vodafone, Three, Sky and TalkTalk will all be assessing their positions and further deal-making can’t be ruled out.”

This is a challenge to the industry and will create a rival to BT in mobile, broadband, convergence and enterprise. However, it is also worth remembering the ‘also rans’.

Unless the ambitions of rivals are inspired by this threat, the prospect of a tiered connectivity industry could emerge, with those offering bundled services on top and the pureplay service providers on the bottom.

The UK has quickly become one of the worlds’ most interesting telecoms markets, thanks to the permutations which could be inspired by this merger.

Tier One Tier Two Tier Three
  • BT (mobile, broadband, content)
  • O2/Virgin Media (mobile, broadband)
  • Sky (content and broadband)
  • Vodafone (mobile and broadband)
  • TalkTalk (broadband)
  • Three (mobile)
  • MVNOs
  • Alt-nets

FCC unanimously votes to make 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use

The US telecoms regulator didn’t split along partisan lines for once and is giving the country a lot more bandwidth to use for wifi and that sort of thing.

The FCC commissioners have had three weeks to argue the toss over the relative merits of freeing up the whole 6 GHz band (5.925–7.125 GHz) for unlicensed use, rather than licensing some of it to mobile operators. We expected them to vote in favour of it, but only by a 3-2 majority as the commissioners affiliated to the Democrat Party performed their standard Pavlovian objection. We were pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong this time, however, with all five giving it the green light.

“By doing this, we are effectively increasing the amount of mid-band spectrum available for wifi by almost a factor of five,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “This will be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation. Wi-Fi NOW’s Claus Hetting, a champion of wifi innovation, said it perfectly: ‘The truth is that this 6 GHz spectrum boost will launch the wifi industry into a new growth trajectory. It will boost wifi’s massive indoor dominance and surely, with the help of emboldened entrepreneurs everywhere, it will bring low-cost wifi (and unlicensed) connectivity to places where it has never been.’”

“While some argue that the unlicensed community doesn’t need the full 1200 megahertz of spectrum, I strongly disagree,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. “Instead of doling out unlicensed spectrum in slivers or piecemeal through some dividend mechanism, we have the chance to provide a huge, much needed infusion of wireless currency to American innovators and entrepreneurs, who will undoubtedly amaze us with their ingenuity. Moreover, to obtain unlicensed 5G-like capabilities, 160 megahertz channels, or eventually 320 megahertz under Wi-Fi 7, are absolutely necessary. “

“I suspect this order will not be remembered because it enabled faster Netflix downloads,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr. “We don’t know what the future holds, but maybe the present pandemic gives us some clues about what’s around the corner. Millions of kids, including mine, are out of school today and stuck at home. Teachers and parents are working hard to keep them learning. Some are turning to video calls to enhance in-home learning, but even that does not capture the feedback between student and teacher that exists in the classroom.”

“With this decision on unlicensed spectrum we do well by the law, we add more permissionless airwaves to the wireless economy, and we expand the democratizing force of having more wifi in more places,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “Amen. Those are good things to do in this crisis and for the days ahead.”

“The 6 GHz spectrum is expected to complement 5G wireless service and unleash a wave of innovation for the Internet of Things,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “It will allow doctors to conduct complex examinations and procedures remotely, enable the training of students and workers using virtual and augmented reality, and spur the next generation of streaming content and gaming.”

All the Commissioners made reference to the importance of wifi in keeping everyone connected while they’re locked down, which probably contributed to this rare unanimity. It’s fair to say wifi is having a good pandemic and the  wifi industry is specially pleased about what this means for realizing the full potential of Wi-Fi 6. We already heard from Wi-Fi NOW via Pai, so here’s what Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance, had to say.

“Extending wifi into the 6 GHz spectrum band can provide more wifi capacity than all the other bands put together,” said Rodrigues. “What’s more, using Wi-Fi 6 technology in the extended band (also known as Wi-Fi 6E) will deliver higher speeds, low latency and service levels that are equivalent to 5G networks and be able to support the widespread, low-cost, use of advanced business, industrial and consumer applications. In terms of the capability and capacity of networks, Wi-Fi 6E, will rewrite the rules of what is possible.

“Wi-Fi 6E technology is designed to deliver performance in highly congested places and the next phase of our trials will prove that performance in real world locations. These trials will demonstrate the application and the benefits of the technology in live environments and through this accelerate the adoption and creation of new business opportunities enabled by the opening of the 6GHz spectrum to be used for wifi services.”

Various other wifi stakeholders, including Google and Intel, also applauded the move, so any US operators that feel hardly done by would be well advised to keep their opinions to themselves. Conspiracy theorists, however, are unlikely to do so and it’s surely just a matter of time before the tinfoil hat brigade start foaming about how wifi over 6 GHz gives you coronavirus, or is used for mind control, or some such attention-seeking guff.

US moves to massively increase bandwidth available to wifi

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of US comms regulator FCC, has proposed making 1.2 GHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use.

“From wifi routers to home appliances, Americans’ everyday use of devices that connect to the Internet over unlicensed spectrum has exploded,” said Pai. “That trend will only continue. Cisco projects that nearly 60% of global mobile data traffic will be off-loaded to wifi by 2022. To accommodate that increase in wifi demand, the FCC is aiming to increase the supply of wifi spectrum with our boldest initiative yet: making the entire 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use.

“By doing this, we would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for wifi almost by a factor of five. This would be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation. It would be another step toward increasing the capacity of our country’s networks. And it would help advance even further our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G.”

Right now wifi uses a few hundred MHz in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. This proposal would enable a ton of extra spectrum contiguous to the 5 GHz band, which would be especially handy for technologies that make use of fatter pipes. The proposal authorizes two different types of unlicensed operations: standard-power in 850-megahertz of the band and indoor low-power operations over the full 1,200-megahertz available.

“The proposed opening of the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi 6 technology will be a game changer for global wifi, said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of Wireless Broadband Alliance. “This new band would provide more capacity than all the other wifi bands put together. If approved, it would prove critical for overcrowding on many wifi networks, especially in light of the volumes of bandwidth hungry corporate traffic recently pushed onto home networks due to COVID-19.

“This is one of the reasons we have been working closely with members on initial trials of Wi-Fi 6E. The proposed release of the 6 GHz band would mean that we can generate multi-gigabit speeds and low-latency connections to deliver advanced mobile services to consumers, business and industry. Wi-Fi 6E is already proven in trials to achieve speeds to rival those of advanced 5G mobile networks.”

This proposal will probably be opposed by some US operators as they fancied a bit more 5G licensed spectrum in that band, but they’ve got plenty already so it doesn’t look like Pai is very sympathetic to their plight. You can read more about his thinking in an article he published here. The proposal will be voted on at the FCC’s open meeting on April 23, which will presumably split along partisan lines as usual, meaning the majority Republicans will wave it through.

Cisco’s OpenRoaming wifi tech to become open standard

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) intends to take over ownership and management of OpenRoaming as a global wireless industry standard.

Right now it’s a technology owned by Cisco and offered to its customers, presumably for a price, but it looks like Cisco has decided it can’t be bothered with the hassle anymore. OpenRoaming is designed to provide a network of wifi hotspots that present a single identity for the purpose of access. In other words, if it becomes ubiquitous then the days of having to muck around with awkward passwords and clunky login pages would be over.

The stated aim of the WBA is to enable collaboration between service providers, technology companies and organizations to make the global wifi experience as seamless as possible, so this seems like a perfect fit. The aim will be to get as many wifi ecosystem stakeholders to buy into this technology in order to improve the global experience.

“OpenRoaming now becomes an open standard, creating a world where wifi users will be able to move seamlessly from one wifi network to another without re-registering or signing in,” said WBA CEO, Tiago Rodrigues. “As a global wireless industry standard, WBA OpenRoaming will improve wifi services and availability, making life easier for users, and more efficient for the global mobile and wifi ecosystem.

“OpenRoaming is now open for business and I call on anyone with a wifi network, private or public, coffee shop or sports stadia or any other type of venue, to join our open ecosystem in order for the service they offer to their users to be automatic, secure, and interoperable, making their networks available to a wider audience.”

“There is considerable pull from the industry and our customers, both enterprise and service provider, to automate secure onboarding across multiple verticals,” said Matt MacPherson, Wireless CTO at Cisco. “We knew OpenRoaming would be a game-changing wireless technology, but the support from across the industry has even surpassed our expectations. OpenRoaming is vital to unlocking the potential of wireless communications. Cisco has been proud to lead the OpenRoaming efforts, but we believe strongly that the WBA is the right organization to steward, with neutrality and confidence, such an important industry initiative.”

Improved wifi user experience is long overdue. It doesn’t feel like it has evolved for decades and it’s an ongoing scandal that even telecoms events often fail to provide public wifi that can cope with more than a couple of people on it. We don’t know whether OpenRoaming is the answer, and even if it is it won’t solve the clunky interface problem by itself, but it does seem like a step in the right direction.

Wi-Fi 6E trials claim to show what a good idea wifi over 6 GHz band is

The Wireless Broadband Alliance is claiming that recent trials of Wi-Fi 6E over 6 GHz have delivered 5G-like performance.

Broadcom and Intel have been mucking about with the latest flavour of wifi during enterprise trials in San Jose, California. They have apparently hit 2 Gbps of throughput during those trials, as well as a consistent two-millisecond low-latency connection. Since the whole point of 5G is faster speeds at lower latencies, the obvious comparison is being made.

“Opening the 6 GHz spectrum will change the game for Wi-Fi 6 by delivering faster speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connectivity for a wide range of consumer and professional applications,” said Eric Mclaughlin GM of the Wireless Solutions Group at Intel. “Intel is committed to partnering with the industry to drive innovation and enable leadership connectivity experiences, and we look forward to bringing our Wi-Fi 6E products to Intel PC platforms that can harness the full benefits of the most advanced wifi technology available.”

“We are excited to enable real world trials conducted by the WBA that demonstrate the power of Wi-Fi 6E,” said Vijay Nagarajan, VP of Marketing at Broadcom. “Wi-Fi 6E will provide reliable high-throughput, low-latency wireless services by deploying Wi-Fi 6 technologies in the soon-to-be-unlicensed and uncongested 6 GHz band.”

“Wi-Fi 6 networks extended into the 6 GHz spectrum represent a multi-generational shift in wifi services and the user experience,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the WBA. “This trial is an important step in the process of effectively demonstrating the benefits that wifi networks can deliver in the 6 GHz spectrum band. The Wi-Fi 6 standard and the 6 GHz spectrum in combination can play a powerful role to deliver advanced mobile services to consumers, business and industry.”

If you still doubt them, check out this table that shows how much throughput and how little latency you get from wifi at 6 GHz, compared to 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. It should be noted that only half the amount of spectrum was used by 5 GHz and an eighth the amount by 2.4 GHz in the table, but then again that’s sort of the point of higher frequency bands – there’s more of them.

One of the reasons the WBA and its members keep banging on about 6 GHz for wifi is because it doesn’t want it to be licenced for 5G and thus taken away from it. So much extra spectrum has been freed up for 5G that it seems only fair for wifi to get a bit more too.

BT finally unveils its reimagined TV proposition

The aggregator model has taken centre-stage at BT, leveraging its existing capabilities instead of trying to beat the content industry at its own game.

Under Gavin Patterson, BT tried to do something which almost looked impossible. It attempted to disrupt the content industry by not only owning the delivery model for content, but the content itself. It attempted to muscle into an established segment and compete with companies which were built for the content world. It was expensive, complicated and messy, and it failed spectacularly.

BT has not given up on content under new leadership, but it is taking a seemingly more pragmatic and strategic approach. Aside from its own content, Now TV will also be embedded in the BT interface, meaning that customers can now watch, pause, rewind and record premium Sky Entertainment and Sky Sports content. Customers will also be able to integrate Amazon Prime Video and Netflix onto their BT bill, while each element of the bundle can be scaled-up or -down month-by-month.

It is making best use of its assets, and it looks to be a comprehensive and sensible pillar of the convergence strategy.

“Life doesn’t stand still from month to month, so we don’t believe our customers’ TV should either. Our new range of TV packs bring together the best premium services, fully loaded with a wide range of award-winning shows, the best live sports in stunning 4K and the latest must-see films – all with the flexibility to change packs every month – with  quick and easy search to find what you want to watch,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division.

BT will ‘own’ some content, it still has the UEFA Champions League broadcast rights after all, but it is picking its battles. The BT TV proposition failed in years gone because it tried to go it alone, but without the broad range of content genres, it looked like a poor attempt to compete with the likes of Sky. In reality, it didn’t need to.

The telcos have a significant advantage over many content companies around the world; they have an existing and trusted billing relationship with the customer. According to the Ovum World Information Series, EE has 30.6 million mobile subscribers and BT has 9.1 million broadband customers. These relationships can be leveraged through the partnership model to realise new profits in a low-risk manner.

BT is in a position of strength. The streaming wars are raging, and the service providers will do almost anything to gain the attention of the consumer, as well as build credibility in the brand. By bundling services into the BT, the OTTs are leveraging the trust which the customer has in the telco billing relationship and gaining eyeballs on the service itself. All they have to do is offer BT a small slice of the profits.

This is the symbiotic relationship in practice. The OTTs gain traction with customers, while BT can complete the convergence objective in a low-risk manner through the aggregator model.

That said, it is somewhat of a retreat from its previous content ambitions.

“This well long overdue move feels like a last-ditch effort to be successful in TV,” said Paolo Pescatore, founder of PP Foresight.

“Aggregation is the holy grail. BT has done a superb job of introducing some novel features and bringing together key services all in one place. This will strongly resonate with users. However, it is unlikely to pose a considerable threat to Sky who in turn will be able to bundle BT Sport into its own packages. In the future expect this new TV platform to be bundled with BT Halo which will further strengthen its premium convergent offering.”

Convergence is a strategy which should be fully embraced by the BT business. Not only has it been proven in other European markets, see Orange in France and Spain, but the depth and breadth of BT’s assets should position it as a clear market leader. With mobile, broadband, public wifi hotspots and content tied into a single bill, as well as partnerships to bolster the experience, BT is heading down the right path. If it can start to build service products on top, such as security, this could start to look like a very competent digital business.

The issue which remains is one of price. The Halo bundle is one few can compete with, but if it is not priced correctly it will not be a success. This does seem to be the issue with the BT consumer business right now, it is pricing itself out of the competition. Convergence is attractive to customers when it is convenient and makes financial sense, but right now it doesn’t seem to.

BT is slowly heading in the right direction. It might have taken years, but it is slowly creating a proposition for the consumer which few should theoretically be able to compete with. If it can merge the business into a single brand and sort out the pricing of its products, it should recapture the market leader position.

Wi-Fi Alliance stakes its claim to the 6 GHz band

The 6 GHz band is expected to be made available in unlicensed form soon and the Wi-Fi Alliance thinks it’s a good fit for Wi-Fi 6.

While wifi most commonly uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, it’s always keen for more. With the advent of 5G and the auction of other higher frequency bands for mobile, especially the mid 3 GHz bands, wifi has increasingly come into direct competition with cellular for bandwidth. 5G seems to have a limitless appetite for such stuff, so the Wi-Fi Alliance seems to be planting its flag early for the 6 GHz band.

Specifically this takes the form of a sub-brand called Wi-Fi 6E, which will be used to designate devices that support connectivity over that frequency. The Alliance reckons regulators will offer up this band in unlicensed form fairly soon and it will represent a rare opportunity for the wifi ecosystem to expand its spectrum portfolio.

“6 GHz will help address the growing need for wifi spectrum capacity to ensure wifi users continue to receive the same great user experience with their devices,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing Wi-Fi 6E now to ensure the industry aligns on common terminology, allowing wifi users to identify devices that support 6 GHz operation as the spectrum becomes available.”

“If the regulatory landscape permits, we expect companies to move forward aggressively with products that operate in 6 GHz because they understand the tremendous value brought to their customers by this portion of unlicensed spectrum,” said Phil Solis, Research Director at IDC. “If spectrum is made available early this year, we expect momentum of products that support operation in 6 GHz to ramp very quickly.”

The Alliance expects consumer routers to be the first to use 6 GHz, but its propagation characteristics are presumably pretty rubbish so you wouldn’t want to rely on that spectrum unless you were fairly close to the router and ideally in the same room. It could be handy for mesh wifi nodes though.

Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo create ‘Peer-to-Peer Transmission Alliance’

Three Chinese smartphone vendors have created a cross-brand alliance to enable wireless file transfer without needing the internet.

The tie-up between the three brands will ensure WiFi Direct is supported on all devices moving forward, effectively allowed smartphones to pair to enable the transfer of files, including photos, videos and music, without being online.

“This expansion of the Peer-to-Peer Transmission Alliance to global users all the more underlines Xiaomi’s longstanding commitment of bringing innovation to everyone,” said Chew Shou Zi, SVP of Xiaomi.

“By joining hands with Vivo and Oppo, two industry leaders that have a strong user base, we are expecting to benefit smartphone users globally. Xiaomi will continue to bring more strategic partnerships of this sort to our users and Mi Fans.”

The idea of WiFi Direct is relatively simple. Two compatible devices simply connect to each other, creating an ‘ad hoc network’ and cutting out the middle-man; the internet. Users can simply turn on the feature, select the desired device, before transferring whatever content they want. This could be useful down the pub, but equally when transferring documents to a printer or displaying a video on a TV screen.

This is not necessarily a new idea, but it is a useful one. Numerous companies, including Xiaomi, have introduced such features though they are contained within their own ecosystem. Xiaomi devices could link-up to other Xiaomi devices, though this alliance between the three OEMs is a positive step towards expanding the ecosystem and usefulness of the feature.