BandwidthX's Wi-Fi offload trading hub

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
30 Jul 2013

Mobile operators are intensely interested in carrier Wi-Fi, to offload burdensome data from their precious networks, and to enable them to harness all that unlicensed spectrum and capacity to improve a user experience they still control.

However, for all the talk of integrated Wi-Fi/cellular base station chips and small cells, most cellcos are too busy and under too much price pressure to spend time building out Wi-Fi networks.

There are alternatives to that all-inclusive HetNet – continuing just work with hotspot partners and use standards like HotSpot 2.0 to improve hand-off and control; scavenge for low cost Wi-Fi capacity available via “homespots” (residential gateways with some capacity left unsecured for community access); and an emerging and interesting option, the Wi-Fi trading exchange.

BandwidthX is one firm pioneering this approach, launching its exchange at June's WBA Wi-Fi Global Congress. It is unlikely to be the only such trading hub, and the model could easily be taken over by a major like Google (which intermittently proposes something similar for all spectrum, including licensed).

But BandwidthX has launched at a pivotal point in time, and its lead to market, while not unassailable, could see it rise in short order to be the pre-eminent player in Wi-Fi offload roaming. If it achieves mass uptake as a trading proposition, it could, in turn, change the offload landscape overnight.

The company plans to operate a cloud-based Bandwidth Market, which enables cellcos to buy Wi-Fi capacity as, when and where they need it from participating ISPs and Wi-Fi service providers who have spare capacity in their networks. The idea is that Bandwidth Market establishes an equitable clearing price for each Wi-Fi capacity transaction, separately taking into account bid and offer pricing in an automatic negotiation.

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