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We’re in the Wi-Fi Age. It’s a fact.

By Claus Hetting   /     Dec 14, 2014  /     Blog  /  

This is a kind of transcript of the my opening speech at the Wi-Fi Innovation Summit in Copenhagen this week – kind of, because I had to shorten it a bit. We’re thrilled that we had some 220+ registered guests including many of the great movers-and-shakers of the Wi-Fi Industry. Enjoy!

Thank you Hassan Claussen for that introduction. And I want to thank you for being the hardest working business partner I’ve ever had. Hassan has worked around the clock for months to make this event happen. Great stuff :)

We’re going to start the proceedings in a couple of minutes. Before we do that I want to share with you some thoughts and some perspectives. I want to try to frame what we will be doing here over the next couple of days.

First of all, I want to say that it’s really important that you’re here. There are so many opportunities in Wi-Fi today. We’re only just scratching the surface of what’s possible. As you know, Wi-Fi has become the prerequisite for anything we do on the Internet.

So here’s the helicopter view: The reason why Wi-Fi has so much momentum behind it right now is because of this: The free falling cost of information.

The End of Cellular

It’s all about this this straight orange line behind me, which is Moore’s Law. By the way, I want to give full credit and thanks for this information to Mr Francis McInerny from North River Ventures in NYC who has graciously let me borrow this chart and the analysis that follows.

There are three things I want to say about this chart: Firstly, the tech industry has been racing down this slope for fifty years. And there’s nothing we can do to stop it even if we wanted to. I can’t imagine why we’d want to, anyway.

All indicators point to the conclusion that we’re in the Wi-Fi Age right now. We probably crossed that chasm a couple of years ago. That also means that we’ve left the Cellular Age behind.

The third thing is this: You cannot reverse back up this curve. You would create no value by doing that. In fact, if you don’t follow it, you will be stuck in the past. And I can’t imagine anyone would want that. But it seems there are still some around that are ready to spend billions on exactly that.

Right now there a mobile operators in the US that are spending $40 billion on little slices of licensed band. These slices are so small that if you take four of them, you get just one Wi-Fi channel. Is this reversing back up the curve? I think it is.

It’s time to stop and think about this very carefully.

If you’re a rocket scientist like me, you will know that a straight line down and across like that on a log scale means acceleration. Let me share some numbers with you to make this clearer.

IEEEchart

In 1997 Wi-Fi ran at 1 Mbps. Today, we’re at gigabit speeds. I cannot tell you where we will be 10 years from now. But I can guarantee you that Wi-Fi innovation will not stop.

In fact – as I said – it’s accelerating. The Wi-Fi Alliance has to date certified some 22,000 products. Two billion devices are Wi-Fi capable today and we expect four billion by 2020. Were no longer just connecting people. We’re connecting machines. This is the Internet of Things. I know our friends from Cisco will be talking about this tomorrow.

Let me share some more numbers. These numbers are brand new – from inside the last couple of months. This will tell you more about how this industry is taking off in terms of traffic.

More than 80% of the traffic consumed on 4G phones is delivered over Wi-Fi. And remember, this is for 4G (LTE) capable devices. Consumers who own 4G devices have a choice. And they are voting with their feet.

SlideTraffic

So you could argue that a lot of this happens in the home and in the office. And that’s true. But this is also changing. As someone said: ‘Wi-Fi has left the building’.

This new research from iPass predicts that there will be one public Wi-Fi hotspot for every 20 people on Earth by 2018. That’s only 3 years away, folks. I don’t know if you believe in these numbers but I can tell you, that I certainly do.

So let’s think about consumers. How do consumers – meaning you and I and our families – look at Wi-Fi? Is it important?

This Maslow’s Pyramid is kind of a joke. You may have seen in circulating on LinkedIn. But if you think about it, it’s also a serious picture of how important Wi-Fi is to everyone – and of course especially to the Millennial Generation.

Pyramid

So here’s the billion-dollar question: How do we turn all this momentum (and there’s a lot of that right now) into real businesses that create value?

That’s the real reason why we’re here. And that’s what we will be spending the next couple of days talking about. Let me give you an overview of some of the things we’ll be covering.

SlideThemesSummit

I think we reached the ‘tipping point’ for carrier Wi-Fi this September. The reason is Apple’s native WiFi calling in iOS8. I believe every mobile carrier will offer Wi-Fi calling inside of the next two years. Taqua is here to talk about that tomorrow and I know Aptilo Networks and some of our other sponsors will mention this as well.

How about this Hotspot 2.0? Someone said that Hotspot 2.0 is ‘the most important technology nobody’s ever heard of’. We’re going to fix that at this Summit. Hotspot 2.0 networks are being deployed right now and this is just the beginning.My friends from Ruckus have promised to cover that tomorrow. And by the way, we also have Global Reach here this week – they provide the service layer.

Now let me say something about offload. Wi-Fi Offload is probably a bad word. It really means is the coming together of mobile and Wi-Fi services. Whatever you choose to call it – I think it’s incredibly important for mobile carriers.

We already have technology that can do this – for example from Aptilo and Birdstep and many others. They will be talking about this tomorrow. My message is this: I believe we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg as far as ‘offload’ is concerned.

Next question: Is it possible to aggregate millions of Wi-Fi hotspots into a single network Over-The-Top? The answer is yes, and we have Devicescape here tomorrow to tell us how they’re doing exactly that.

Homespots is not just a trend. It’s a very important part of the shift that I described earlier. Remember the 1 hotspot per 20 people on Earth I talked about? Most of these will be ‘homespots’ – home Wi-Fi routers. There are millions of those. And they are being put to good use by some of the companies here today, including BT, KPN, Anyfi Networks, and Fon. We’re going to cover that today.

Here’s something else that I believe in very strongly: Any public venue can and will become their own wireless operator – if they want to, that is. Frankly, I can’t imagine why they would not want to. This can be anything from a Smart City to a bus company to a retail mall and a sports stadium.

We have some of great Wi-Fi startups here to talk about how to monetize free Wi-Fi. Social media, location analytics, consumer engagement, advertising – these are all ways of making money on Wi-Fi. I believe we will see big developments in these areas in coming years. The opportunity to get involved is now.

I want to you leave you with this quote by David Morken, CEO of Bandwidth.com in the US. It’s just something to think about. Here it is: “Cellular will become the mortar and Wi-Fi will become the bricks,” says David.

We’ve talked a lot about the mortar. Now it’s time to talk about the bricks that are building the digital economy of the 21st Century.

Welcome to the Summit – and don’t forget to have some fun while you’re here. And now I’m going to hand you over to someone who has been involved in Wi-Fi from the beginning – I’m really just a novice.

For more on the Wi-Fi Innovation Summit that happened this week in Copenhagen watch this space – we will be publishing a post-conference report shortly. And don’t forget to join my LinkedIn group Wi-Fi Innovation Forum for more.

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