An Attack on Wi-Fi at CTIA

By Carl Ford, Partner, Crossfire Media  |  October 13, 2015

The world is full of new and improved solutions that seem to come in clusters. At CTIA (News - Alert) last month, the Low Power Wide Area folks had their turn in the spotlight.

For the most part, I like the technologies including 6LoPan, LoRa, Random Phase Multiple Access, Sigfox and Weightless (including nWave). All of them share great characteristics that fit into the requirements for IoT solutions, from agriculture-remote locations to smart cities’ density.

Already we have alliances forming that are advocating specific solutions. Ingenu as a company is becoming a powerhouse with RPMA. Cisco (News - Alert) and IBM are pushing LoRaWAN as part of the LoRa Alliance. Sigfox (the company) has been making partnerships for Sigfox the protocol that includes many heavy hitters including Samsung (News - Alert). 

What do these solutions all have in common? They are coming into the market to deal with the issue of IoT traffic characteristics. From an architecture point of view they can be complementary to existing cellular build outs with a minimal change in capital allocation and work plans.

Previous writing about Actility’s efforts to deploy smart cities using LoRa technology in France showed how aligning with the carriers gave access to towers, and made for quick deployments.

These are not pico, femto and other small cell solutions.

Rather than trying to address IoT solutions with Wi-Fi, which may still be needed for off-net consumer loads by many LTE (News - Alert) deployments, these solutions are easy to deploy at the core of existing systems.

Carriers clearly see they have a problem where LTE is a fire hose and IoT needs a Dixie cup with sneakers.

However, if deployment with existing systems is the future, GSMA (News - Alert) has some ideas about how to accomplish that goal with existing GSM frequencies and new radio specifications. That includes antenna solutions like CAT-0 and CAT-1 where the carrier assures the limitation of throughput is among the alternatives.

Alan Woodhouse, the chair of the Weightless SIG working group, in previous conversations has impressed me with the fact that Weightless device price points are significantly less than those ARMed for cellular. Likewise, Bryan Ray and Brian Eagle of LinkLabs have pointed out their solutions target private deployments where carrier systems don’t fit easily.

It is too early to tell if the deployments from the carriers will have to comply with existing operational methods that add costs to match support systems. But the history of WiMAX and Wi-Fi suggests that carriers look to use their OSS hammer no matter what the technology.

If that is the case, the alternative solutions providers may have better economics despite the lack of scale. It also suggests that Wi-Fi is not the universal solution to all cellular woes. For many of my friends, those are fighting words.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere