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Friday, October 17, 2014

SIMless

If you know me or ever read what I think about 4G and LTE, you know I just won't ever refer to the latter as being the first. In other words, LTE is not 4G.

The concept of 4G goes beyond networks, providers and carriers. The concept of 4G is that you get speed (hence the generalization of fast network technologies as such) but also universal access to the internet and your subscribed services, no matter where you are in the world, or what provider you are connected to, or which RAT (radio access technology) you are using.

To be a 4G operator the first thing you want to do is to provide services that can be accessed via any IP connection. So voice (over IP - VoIP) and messaging should be the first priority for a service provider, so you can adapt and survive this change. There is no "if", only "when" it will happen. Change must be accepted and embraced as an opportunity to get ahead, to beat your competitors.



The second step is to free the user (subscriber) from the shackles and limitations of a single network. No matter how good your network is, there will always be "black spots" (bad coverage) or areas where is simply to expensive and ridiculous to invest in radio resources (build antennae and transmission) for multiple operators. So to start with, muti-RAT access (via WiFi for instance) with over-the-air service network registration has to happen. Then, local or national "roaming" has to happen as well.

Obviously the motivations to do so (which I shall not discuss here for several reasons) are zero when this is seen as "forfeiting revenue" in the short run. To see this as an opportunity to stop wasting money on more network, and go for the early adoption and the recreation of your costumer base as a service provider and not a network provider anymore, and changing your business model to adapt to future is only for a few people with vision.

Queue Apple. They have made the first approach through it's services with facetime and iMessage on iOS. And continued to expand them to the MAC, eventually they may even have a PC app. For a long time as well, we've been hearing of the "SIMless" device or the "Apple SIM". With the launch of the new iPad Air2 and iPad Mini 3 the SIMless device is here, and apparently they even have agreements in place with US and UK network providers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and EE in the US and UK).

Obviously, considering the way you apparently need to switch between operators, it looks like it's a SIMless but not seamless experience. Yet...



Meanwhile mobile and fixed network providers are... investing heavily in competing and redundant networks, while trying to destroy each other by destroying prices and margins, and dealing with the ever decreasing revenue by "cutting costs". No sign of VoLTE or network independent messaging services. Even in the most advanced markets with integrated service providers, you can not use your (same provider) WiFi to get voice or messaging where mobile coverage fails. Instead they are listening to the "experts" (mostly the tech sellers) and focusing in maximizing LTE coverage (marketed as 4G). Next? LTE-A and then the next generation, the upcoming "5G like" radio technologies... if they survive that long.


(supposed to be self portraying)

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