Cedric Gonin, wireless broadband director at Orange France and director and co-chair of the Wireless Broadband Alliance Board, is speaking at the Broadband World Forum 2012, taking place on the 16 – 18 October 2012 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Here he gives his views on where wifi fits in with the overall strategy at Orange France.
With the development of LTE and small cells is there a role for public wifi?
The main difference between public wifi and LTE/small cells is that with small cells the venue is able to optimise its footprint for its customers but there is no service that can be branded by the operator at the venue, as with wifi. Small cells are more interesting for the operator and its customers, whereas wifi is valuable for the operators and the venue. The technology enables the venue to communicate on top of it and provide a service under its brand.
Could widespread public wifi cannibalize profits from LTE?
Today operator wifi hotspots are addressing a complementary space, allowing wifi devices to get connectivity, and enabling an operator to provide more connectivity on a site. Wifi is not scalable enough for national coverage but a very good solution to support mobile broadband at indoor high density areas.
Where does wifi fit into the Orange’s overall mobile strategy?
Wifi is a B2B services that we as Orange provide to hotel brands, airports, and retailers. It’s also an additional connectivity technology, enabling Orange to provide a continuity of service at high traffic density locations.
Connecting to unfamiliar wifi access points is still a pain point for many users. What work it being done to improve this?
This is where Next Generation hotspot make sense. It adds wifi as a mobile bearer like 3G or 4G and the end-user will not need to know the difference between the technologies. When available, in this case wifi will be an underlying technology that is used to provide the best network connectivity with a seamless user-experience.
Why do some manufactures, such as Apple, only enable certain applications over wifi. Is this the correct approach to take?
In some areas 3G networks are not widely deployed so wifi has the perception of being faster and cheaper. This is why some companies communicate about wifi, specially. It really depends on location but with development of fast mobile networks the differences will disappear.
What impact on the market do you foresee the arrival of 802.11ac equipment having?
This just provides ongoing continuity of performance improvements. As licensed networks are going faster (3G to 4G) so wifi and unlicensed networks are developing the same way. It’s not a break in the market, just the natural evolution to better performance.
What are the biggest challenges you expect to face in the next couple of years?
The biggest challenge is the mix between unlicensed and licensed spectrum because the business models are so different. We have to be smart to make them live together, in order to deliver the best user experience. In the short term though, it will be the adoption of Next Generation Hotspot, which will bring wifi technology to the same level as 3G/4G.
Why are you looking forward to speaking at the Broadband World Forum?
I’m looking forward to sharing the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s point of view on wifi’s role as a connectivity enabler, either as a stand-alone technology or integrated into a global mobile approach. I would like to explain how broadband providers could leverage their assets to extend the user experience of their customers outside their homes or offices through public wifi. I will also defend wifi as the most suitable companion for improving user satisfaction and not as a threat for other models.