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Friday, May 26, 2006

Quadplay, FMC and multiple gateways

I can see a bit of a problem emerging with the new class of quadplay and FMC services. Most of them need some sort of "box" in the home, usually with WiFi included for local-area connectivity.

The culprits are:

- the usual DSL/cable router
- TV set-top box for cable/satellite/digital terrestrial
- an operator-custom FMC gateway for dual-mode phones (probably integrated with the router)
- operator-provided residential pico/femtocells (again, possible integrated into a router)
- cellular-backhauled fixed modems
- some sort of WiMAX termination
- anything integrated with the TV/gaming/audio system using WiFi
- probably a bunch of other things I've forgotten about

The problem comes with households with multiple people. All the operators I speak to have the vision of being the sole household quadplay provider, with one "Hub" gateway box for all the family's services.

I reckon that's unrealistic. What happens where one of the parents gets a work-provided mobile from another operator? Or if one of the kids really likes an MVNO like Helio which gives dual-mode phones? Or if people upgrade to a Fusion-type device and it comes with a free hub?

Bottom line is that some (most?) families are likely to get multiple FMC/gateway/picocell type boxes. Do they keep switching them over? Buy an ethernet hub & connect all of them? "daisy-chain" them via WiFi?

I see technical support nightmares ahead.....


Mark D said...

Completely agree. One of the big differences in how cellular providers and MVNO's approach FMC, is where will WiFi access be allowed. MVNO's want WiFi access everywhere, in the home, at the office, at Starbucks etc... The name of the game is to offload as many cellular minutes over to WiFi to minimize expensive minutes. So multiple APs likely will not be an issue. For cellular operators, typical thoughts right now are to enable better in home coverage, and therefore only allow WiFi access in the home (for a consumer play, an enterprise play would be different). The goal being not to cannibalize the big expensive cellular RAN with low cost WiFi. The problem, is that to enforce this WiFi only in the home concept, cellular operators are likely to tie or bundle the phone with a specific access point and then utilize an authentication scheme with MAC addresses. This will then allow the dual-mode handset to only utilize WiFi when married to the one pre-authorized AP. So now going back to your original point, multiple gateways will wreak havoc with this model and cause a customer service nightmare. Never mind the billing nightmare of "I was in my kitchen, why did you charge me cellular minutes when I should have been on WiFi??"

Paul Jardine said...

There seems to be an opportunity for some routing device that can cope with multiple broadband connections. Rather than try to adapt what is there, use it as an alternate channel.
It would also allow the operators to route their VoIP traffic over a specific connection, but bit torrent type stuff over another.
Of course it means some kind of equipment subsidy, in all probability.

Anonymous said...

What about sharing your wireless AP with your neighbors? When I log on I usually see a half dozen of my neighbor's wireless routers and have to fight the urge to use theirs rather than mine. What about a device that lets all of us share all, so that whenevr one bogs down, the system automatically switches to a faster service? Or better yet, when I am downloading a huge video file, it splits it up among all of our APs a la BitTorrent? Wouldn't that be great?