News out last week that Orange made an investment in fledgling connectivity marketplace BandwidthX, signals that per-haps its services are now on their way to Europe.
News out this week that Orange is planning an investment in fledgling connectivity marketplace BandwidthX, signals that per-haps its services are now on their way to Europe.
The company came to life on the prospect of WiFi offload, and said when we first met its executives in 2013, almost precisely 3 years ago, that it was talking to ALL of the US tier 1 operators and that none had so far kicked out the idea of trading bandwidth in real time.
Such a marketplace is essential when two sides have very little trust in one another, because they are best of enemies. For in-stance, the BandwidthX marketplace would allow Comcast in the US, which has beaten AT&T to almost all new broadband busi-ness in its territories, to trade WiFi capacity for AT&T to use on cellphones when its base stations are approaching capacity.
No transactions have been reported since it began trading as none of its customers want to admit they rely on the networks of their chief rivals and least of all do MNOs want to admit that de-spite the $ billions they have spent in spectrum, at any point in time, on a given day, they need spare WiFi capacity, to get through the day.
The system works by a buyer saying what capacity it needs, at which time of day and where, and then makes an offer of how much it is willing to pay. The market then matches this with ca-pacity offers in the marketplace. BandwidthX keeps some part of the the difference between the two prices as payment.
In the US WiFi offload initiated by the operator, has been slow to get off the ground. We know that AT&T is trying its hardest to source its own WiFi capacity from free WiFi, building out its own WiFi capabilities and partnering with smaller WiFi owners, such as Towerstream in New York. But when a cell is nearing capacity, the BandwidthX marketplace gives it flexibility to put off a capaci-ty base station upgrade, and that allows it to smooth out its capex, in return for some light Opex spend.
Comcast has deliberately built out over 13 million homespots, many of which are 2nd SSIDs on small enterprise gateways, to cov-er as much of its cable regions with WiFi, as it can.
But increasingly it has become obvious that Bandwidthx has other applications and as cellular becomes a combination of multiple spectrum layers, including WiFi and LTE in unlicensed spectrum, with most RAN networks being shared across more than one part-ner, that there is more trading to be done than only WiFi. As more phones can reach over into other neighboring spectrum segments, especially as chips find their way in to devices which can manage carrier aggregation, the possibilities will open up far more widely for such a marketplace.
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