C-as-a-S Part 2: A WiFi Business Model for Cellular Networks?

By Mika Skarp

In my last post, I took a cold hard look at some of the reasons why the current business model cellular operators isn't working, how consumers would like to see it change and what the concept of Connectivity-as-a-Service could mean. Today I want to talk about how all this might get done.

NOTE TO READERS: This gets a wee bit technical, but it's very straight forward.

In a 4G network there are logically two types of connections; default bearer and dedicated bearer. The default bearer is always shared between the given applications in an end device and provides basic connectivity to the user. The traffic through a default bearer is measured in GBs and charged according to the user's service plan. This has pretty well been the model since the arrival of 3G, and the big benefit is that the consumer won’t get sticker shock at the end of the month, unless of course he or she was roaming.  And while everybody has this plan already and prices are getting lower, many consumers prefer public WiFi hot spots because they offer “free” service and won't eat up their plans fixed data diet.

On the flip side of the 'one default bearer fits all" model is the idea of providing a dedicated bearer to users that may be specific to the user, to different applications, certain locations or for a
certain amount of time. Among the many advantages of providing dedicated bearers is that mobile operators can offer different classes or categories of connections and price them accordingly. For example, they might set up a dedicated bearer for all end device traffic with a bit rate limited to 3 Mbps and provide SLAs for that speed.  Then they might roll out different bearers just for say YouTube videos or Skype calls and place a premium on those.

The point here is that dedicated bearer does not need to eat up your data quota. And in a manner familiar to anyone who's used public Wi-Fi these bearers could easily be made accessible through through a simple web page, NFV or QR code. In order to properly manage and orchestrate the network of course (whether free or paid) you would certainly need to deploy Cloudstreet's Dynamic Profile Controller (DPC).

Back to the cafeteria example from last week's post. Now as the user walks in, instead of rooting around for a WiFi and password, they open a page or tap an App to have all of their traffic go through a dedicated bearer with an SLA attached. This is not only easier for the consumer but for the cafeteria owner and staff as well. Like the Square POS systems, he doesn't need a lay a WLAN line, router or have an ADSL connection, he just subscribes to a monthly service through his carrier and boom, he's got free on-demand cellular service for all his customers, and no WiFi congestion headaches to boot. Now that's what I call true Connectivity-as-a-Service.