Building the wico ecosystem

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Wireless concessions in the UK - an update and a discussion

Our work on the Wireless Concessions report made us much more aware of how rapidly that area is opening up. When you think about it, the idea is a no-brainer. Local councils can finance new data networks at street level, and even make some money, just by sweating their existing street furniture and other assets. What’s not to like?

Of course it’s not quite that easy. Our thanks go to Michael Snaith and Callum Knowles at Regional Network Solutions for opening our eyes to what’s happening and helping to steer us through the real-life complexities. Now we can see the wico opportunity flowering for ourselves, not least because the report has already generated enough sales to recover its production costs. Its client list ranges from one of the best known brands in the world to small consultancies and local councils.

We also see a growing stream of public announcements as a multi-layered ecosystem develops to make wico networks widely available and easy to use.

For example, it’s clearly important that the mobile operators move towards using wifi backhaul to fill gaps in 4G coverage and to offload network-strangling video sessions. Some have been dismissive about this approach, but now Three has taken a revealing step towards wifi integration with the beta launch of its inTouch app.

Three customers (meaning Three the company, not 3 in total) who download inTouch will be able to make calls and send texts seamlessly over wifi connections. At present the app is pitched particularly at customers who have poor Three coverage at home. And it’s not a freeloading workaround.  The traffic is routed onto the Three network so the customer is charged in the same way as for ordinary calls and texts.

But clearly inTouch could provide a convenient and easy way to communicate via other wifi services when away from home. We guess that Three hopes to keep control of the traffic and the revenue while gaining full advantage from the benefits offered by wico networks.

Meanwhile Hammersmith and Fulham has announced another step towards extending that coverage with potentially state-of-the-art performance. The council will be letting out access to the 15km of ducts dug for its CCTV network to ITS Technology Group. In turn, ITS will lay a fibre network along the ducts, with access available to communications providers through Fluidata’s Service Exchange Platform.

We expect the new network will be used to bring the west London borough’s characteristic streets of mansion blocks into the 21st century. Instead of creaking lifts, where you pull a rope to rise up the floors (our older readers will remember them), there will be fibre-to-the-building, and ample backhaul from wifi points of presence. No doubt downloaders of Three inTouch will be among the users.

Point Topic plans to keep tracking these announcements as wico coverage and apps develop. If you see anything you think is interesting, please let us know.

Find out more

Point Topic’s Wireless Concessions: The wifi opportunity for local government report is available at £295 + VAT or can be purchased as part of a 12-month UK Plus licence. Please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail [email protected] for more details.