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Monday, October 24, 2005

How do we deal with Multi-WLAN households?

I reckon a battle is brewing for control – or lack of it – in the home WLAN space.

About 30-40m homes around the world are thought to have WiFi networks already, although that number is skewed quite heavily towards the US market. Most of these are bought retail at ever-lower prices. An increasing number of broadband service providers are sneaking in WLAN to new subscribers' homes (whether they need it or not) in integrated home gateways. Although some providers are tempting users to trade-in their old equipment, I bet many users still run two APs or routers in parallel (or at least keep one in the cupboard).

But that's not all. Future home PCs may have WiFi AP's built-in, with some Digital TV set-top boxes going the same way. Dedicated TV-centric WiFi solutions are emerging. It may be that your company gives you a separate secure AP to connect to the corporate network. Your mobile carrier might give you another one in a wirelessly-backhauled gateway box. Maybe your next super-dooper games console / hifi / toaster has one too. And you can see your neighbour's one through the wall, and the local municipality's hotzone from the lamp-post in the street.

What this means is that any WiFi device will need to have some damn good connection-management software and an easy and flexible user interface. Services providers and equipment suppliers have to assume that homes will have multiple APs/routers. And customer service departments dealing with wireless-related inquiries will need some pretty impressive skills to navigate users through this minefield.

It also strikes me that there's a whole bunch of product opportunities out there waiting for enterprising vendors. Just don't give me the "you only need our box" pitch, because it's plain that the average broadband household in 2009 will have 2+ separate wireless networks. Oh, and add in WiMAX/TDD/Flash-OFDM/HSDPA/EV-DO/etc while you're at it.....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dean interesting I work in the telco industry and we are one of the companies emitting a WiFi product.

Consumers are going to be so confused as to which box/device they require that the industry as a whole owe it to the end users to provide Fusion and not Con-Fusion.....(excuse the pun)

Anyway I do believe moving forwards there will be a market for a creditable company to come in and provide a home service for technicians to visit the customers home to help them decide and install.

The business model to be used? Not sure could be a lose leader on the technician costs with the option/partnerships to upsell into the home, which will provide the profitable margin.

Anyway what's your view on the consumer front? Would be interested to find out...