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Summary:

Mobile operators are paying hotspot aggregators for mobile offload capacity. Why not the other way around? BelAir Networks thinks operators should think big, building their own monster metro Wi-Fi networks, then turn around and sell that capacity back to aggregators and everyone else.

BelAir-Wi-Fi

If mobile operators are going to make Wi-Fi a key part of their data strategies, they might as well go big, generating enormous amount of offload capacity they can not only use to relieve their beleaguered 3G and 4G networks but also sell to their partners – at least that’s what metro Wi-Fi equipment dealer BelAir Networks proposes.

BelAir today took the cover off of a new set of Wi-Fi controllers designed to scale metro networks into hundreds of thousands of access points, delivering far more capacity than even the operators’ most data-hungry customers can consume. Operators can then take that excess capacity and sell it to their mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) partners, ISPs, third-party hotspot providers, even their competitors if they choose, said Ronny Haraldsvik, chief marketing officer at BelAir.

Sharing Wi-Fi access points certainly isn’t a new concept, as operators augment their networks with capacity from hotspot aggregators worldwide such as Boingo and iPass. But BelAir proposes to reverse the business model. Rather than rely on the existing network of coffee shops, convention centers and airports — which aren’t the only places mobile operators need capacity — they can build outdoor and indoor networks focused on where their customers consume the most mobile data. Operators can then turn around and sell excess capacity to whoever wants it, whether its Boingo looking to expand its footprint or Cablevision looking to bulk up its free Wi-Fi service for cable broadband customers. Operators could even become wireless ISPs, selling metro Wi-Fi connectivity to those iPad and Android tablet customers who aren’t buying the 3G and 4G services they’re selling. Carriers resell voice and data all the time to other operators in the form of wholesale partnerships and roaming agreements. Why not do the same with Wi-Fi?

  1. To the shed with Bel Air’s approach. Metro Wi-Fi networks should be community/consumer operated resources. Carriers, of all sorts, already have their grubby hands deep enough in the spectrum; without any regard to the real public interest.

    Mr. Fitchard, is the angle of this article your own voice or is this truly the expressed intent of Bel Air? I notice that there were NO quotes, of any sort, included in the piece.

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    1. Hi Rafiki,

      There are no direct quotes, but I talked to Ronny Haraldsvik who I cited in the story. BelAir has actually changed quite a bit over the years. With the big muni-Wi-Fi boom dead, it’s shifted its strategies to building commercial Wi-Fi networks for carriers. It supplies a lot of AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspot gear for instance.

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      1. Sheila Burpee Duncan Tuesday, November 22, 2011

        Even back in the Muni Wi-Fi days, BelAir Networks was focussed on carriers ie mobile and fixed operators. We were in Muni because some of our carrier customers were. BelAir Networks has always maintained that carriers are the best ones to run big networks. That pov may not always be popular, per earlier comment, but it has proven accurate and it has certainly worked well for us.

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  2. Rafiki, could you get some examples of good community WiFi projects? And if so, which vendors are they using?

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    1. RM, they tend to use Ubiquiti. Ubiquiti is great (by itself) or as a nice compliment to other carrier wifi solutions.

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  3. RT @JCfti: BelAir Networks pitches metro Wi-Fi for operators to integrate WiFi more tightly into its network
    http://t.co/BPYYPAyk

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  4. RT @JCfti: BelAir Networks pitches metro Wi-Fi for operators to integrate WiFi more tightly into its network http://t.co/4MqGJ3kQ

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  5. BelAir’s GigXone: Making metro Wi-Fi communal – http://t.co/ILki3bJv

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