Thursday, June 08, 2006

U.K. train passengers want WiFi, but won't pay

A very interesting survey was just completed by telecoms consultancy BWCS. Here's an article about it.

Basically it says that there is very clear demand for WiFi connectivity on trains, but price and reliability are keeping usage down.

So what's this mean for a mobile operator wanting to offer a similar WiFi service?

-> Mobile operator wants to offer WiFi service on train to capture lucrative business users and add "bundled value" to consumer users. It could be a wholesale model where train operator offers WiFi for free or for a fee, or it could be a direct MNO to sub relationship. Irrelevant at this point.

-> Problem is users are wanting more bandwidth and greater reliability without paying more (or anything at all). They are also starting to demand symmetric bandwidth which cheap as chips ADSL doesn't do (ADSL is usually used to backhaul WiFi traffic).

-> MNO therefore must find a way of deploying WiFi on trains and collector points along the route (TMobile UK uses WIMAX to collect WiFi traffic on London-Brighton) for next to nothing. Piggy backing on top of the GSM/UMTS transport network seems like a good idea. On the other hand, SDSL backhaul at the WIMAX site is an option but it has all the same issues of backhauling HSDPA over ADSL which I blogged about before.

The best option, if it's available, is a carrier ethernet link. You get your 2G/3G traffic backhauled more or less for free over pseudowires (VLANs), your HSDPA backhauled over a separate VLAN with different QoS, and your WiFi/WIMAX traffic backhauled again over its own VLAN with its own QoS. It's scalable, cheap, high bandwidth and carries both IP and legacy traffic very efficiently.

The skyrocketing demand for high bandwidth, always on data services like WiFi (coffee shops, trains, etc) and eventually HSDPA and WIMAX will drive consolidation in mobile operators' transport networks. And Ethernet will be the backhaul technology of choice.

No comments: