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Can You Name These 2 Potentially Disruptive Wireless Players?

My favorite philosopher Yogi Bera, once said, The future ain’t what it used to be”, and that is the theme of this blog. With a shout out to my business partner Hamish Caldwell for collaborating on this one, see if you can identify these two companies from the following publicly available information:

Company #1:

  • They are currently building out fiber in major metro areas in the U.S.

  • They have an MVNO offering designed to provide consumers a better network experience since it selects the available network with the strongest signal (purchased in discounted buckets)

  • They have announced plans to put 400 WiFi access points in train stations in India, positioning it for providing both internet access and also VoWiFi calling

  • They have entered the U.S. FCC's Spectrum Access System (SAS) ring for the 3.5 GHz CBRS band

  • They acquired Aplental Technologies – a start-up that is developing self-organizing, ultra-low power Gigabit wireless technology targeting 60GHz

  • They acquired Webpass – a company focused on high speed Internet connections for residential and commercial buildings, primarily using point to point wireless

Company #2:

  • Last February they founded the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and are hosting it at their company Headquarters location. TIP is an engineering-focused initiative geared toward re-imagining the traditional approach to building and deploying telecom network infrastructure. It was also lauded as part of an effort to accelerate 5G network designs. There are now over 100 TIP members.

  • They recently announced a product called OpenCellular, an inexpensive, open source wireless access platform containing multiple radio technologies and radio bands

  • They bought Terragraph – a company who has developed a phase array antenna to retain the highly directional signal required for 60GHz

  • They are sponsoring Project ARIES- the development of a base station based on a new spectrally-efficient air interface using of massive MIMO antenna arrays.

The answer to #1 is Google, and the answer to #2 is Facebook.

I’m guessing that many of you were able to identify these two companies but perhaps you didn’t realize the breadth of all that Google and Facebook are doing in the wireless space. Others of you may have not, which is understandable in an industry traditionally focused on competition between carriers and emerging cable companies. But it’s clear that both Google and Facebook are following well thought out strategies to be big players in wireless, even though they are publicly downplaying any intentions to compete with incumbents. And the sobering part is that they have a lot of cash on hand to do it with.

I started this off by describing Google and Facebook as potentially disruptive wireless players, so let me elaborate. Unlike the existing wireless carriers or cable providers targeting wireless, neither Google nor Facebook is dependent on access revenue for their business model. They make their money on advertising paid for by those wanting to get their ads in front of Google and Facebook users. So it seems entirely plausible to assume that if they connect fixed broadband wireless directly into the house or office building, (which just happens to be a major use case of 5G), they could use their advertising revenue to deeply discount access fees or maybe even give that part away to their heaviest users. Needless to say, they already know who those heavy users are. And that, my friends, could be very disruptive.

There’s a lot to chew on when you think about the wireless marketplace of the future. Obviously the incumbents are going to evolve, (note that Verizon just bought Yahoo) and wireless spectrum auctions will clarify the intentions of non-traditional players. But I do think the challenge to all of us, particularly those of us who have been in the wireless industry a very long time, is to recognize that the Googles and the Facebooks of the world are determined to become significant players in our industry and could potentially change the industry model in the process.

So that’s what I think about two potential disruptors, but I also know there are other serious disruptors to the traditional carriers in the wireless services space (think: Microsoft, Amazon for example). Who do you think will be the emerging winners in 5G? Please reply and share your thoughts on my comments or your perspectives!


Bill Mayberry
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