US Wireless Carriers Opposing Wi-Fi?

WiFiLong-term PC aficionados are no doubt familiar with the venerable John C. Dvorak, of PC Magazine fame. Dvorak is known as much for being an astute critic of all things technology-related as he is for stepping on toes with his constant criticisms and biting satire.

Dvorak's recent PC Magazine article (with reaction and commentary by MobilitySite here) plants the seed of suggestion that the U.S. wireless telcos are doing everything in their power to squash the availability of wi-fi on smartphones and mobile phones. The article goes on to theorize that the threat of widespread, free or affordable municipal wi-fi networks has the traditional cellco carriers running for the hills. Dvorak asserts that the recent proliferation of EVDO PC Card and Cardbus adapters for notebooks is nothing more than a defensive reaction to the possibility of large-scale wi-fi networks and continued advancements in VOIP services and handsets.

While the piece contains a mish-mash melding of the usual Dvorak-isms and insider intrigue mixed with old-fashioned theorizing, it's an entertaining read and certainly merits discussion, especially on what may be the eve of new Treo announcements by Palm and the likely continued dearth of wi-fi on these devices.

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Plausible, but...

freakout @ 3/16/2007 1:17:13 AM # Q
...there is a hole in Dvorak's theory: the iPhone. It's surprising the Cingular/AT&T have been willing to allow such a highly-publicised device to feature the technology front-and-centre, and would seem to indicate they're slowly getting used to it.
RE: Plausible, but...
pascanu @ 3/16/2007 3:54:46 AM # Q
The iPhone is a closed system: you cannot install software of your choice on it. So it is up to Apple and the carriers to decide what they allow you to use WiFi for.

Handspring Visor -> m505 -> Zire71 -> Zire72 -> Treo650
RE: Plausible, but...
jfme @ 3/16/2007 11:25:11 AM # Q
Yep. Something like you cannot use wi-fi unless you have the $1000/month plan active in your account.

RE: Plausible, but...
freakout @ 3/16/2007 5:21:23 PM # Q
I know it's a closed system, but most people just want it for mobile web access, right? In that respect, the iPhone has what people want: the ability to switch between wireless data streams. VoIP is obviously not on the table, but the point is that it's still a pretty major concession on the carrier's part to allow it and may possibly indicate that they'll let other companies use wifi too.
RE: Plausible, but...
ChiLLFiRe @ 3/22/2007 11:58:06 PM # Q
So this means that you pay for a DATA plan and you pay for Wi-Fi plan. If users would need the phone to access websites, why not get a DATA plan. As simple as it is...

"Do you know the difference between an error and a mistake? Anyone can make an error, but that error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it."
-Grand Admiral Thrawn

"Be sure you're smarter than your smartphone...ask help from palminfocenter"

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Well of course

mikecane @ 3/16/2007 8:03:22 AM # Q
Skype skype skype.


RE: Well of course
mikecane @ 3/16/2007 12:19:05 PM # Q

Cingular, Qwest blocking ‘Free’ Calls

RE: Well of course
LiveFaith @ 3/17/2007 8:40:15 PM # Q
This whole article and discussion is rediculous. Do we have to even waste our time with these childish conspiracy theories.

The big carriers are not trying to deny free WiFi access to the masses. They are working to help us all. I've seen their commercials!

Pat Horne

RE: Well of course
mikecane @ 3/19/2007 2:02:44 PM # Q
Once again LiveFaith cuts through the Fog Of Reality to the truth.

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they shouldn't oppose it

drbuzz0 @ 3/16/2007 12:03:56 PM # Q
Phone companies should not oppose wifi. It's a dumb idea. If you buy a smartphone like a Treo, it makes sense to have a data plan, even if you have Wifi capabilities.

A device like that is something you keep on you and the broadband data networks are avaliable everywhere (pretty much). You can't get by the same way mooching wifi from place to place.

But wifi does have a HUGE advantage for phone companies. The EVDO networks and others have limited capacity. Put a lot of people on them and they slow down. The phone companies want to offer multimedia and high speed, but in places where a lot of people are using them, the network will slow.

If a few users can offload their bandwidth to wifi, it will save the network a lot of load. In cities, for example, there are a lot of people per cell. However, there are also many wifi hotspots. If a few users on their lunch break check out some TV on their office wireless network, rather than the EVDO network, it will make a big difference in the network's performance.

RE: they shouldn't oppose it
moofie @ 3/16/2007 2:17:15 PM # Q
"it will save the network a lot of load."

That's just it...the phone companies don't WANT to save the network a lot of load, they want to charge you a lot to load the network.

You have it exactly backwards.

RE: they shouldn't oppose it
LiveFaith @ 3/17/2007 8:44:00 PM # Q

You're killin' me man!

Pat Horne

RE: they shouldn't oppose it
drbuzz0 @ 3/18/2007 8:54:40 PM # Q
You completely miss my point. Wireless companies are already doing all they can to use the bandwidth they have as efficiently as possible. If their EVDO service is going painfully slow, due to a lot of people on it at once, then guess what happens:

1. Customers complain
2. Customers wonder why they bothered going with a given service provider when their internet connection clearly is no good.
3. Customers don't buy Sprint TV or Vcast music or whatever other service they are selling for entertainment or surfing purposes.

The phone companies are well aware that they have limited bandwidth and keeping it speedy is a constant battle. Hence the long terms of service where they say they don't want you file serving, web conferencing etc etc.

Therefore, if a few users in a densely populated area get their bandwidth for web stuff from a different source, they can make a big improvement.

Would it stop people subscribing to unlimited data plans? Hardly. You can't compare EVDO or UMTS to Wifi. You can't have wifi rolling down the highway or while visiting a non-connected relative in the suburbs. Wifi works at your home, office and elsewhere it's hit or miss.

Now, if you don't mind snooping for a signal with a cantenna, that might be okay, but nobody buys a treo (which is just as much a phone as a handheld) for that sort of thing. I suppose you could try to restrict your non-wifi activities to only voice.

But considering that the unlimited data plans are pretty reasonable in price anyway, you'd be better off going with one.

Conclusion: people buy a Treo for continuously connected stuff. If you want to surf at Starbucks, get a T|X. If a few users can be offloaded to another connection method then the network performance improves. Customers buy more and have better loyalty.

Think next time before you talk. You are making no sense whatsoever!

RE: they shouldn't oppose it
LiveFaith @ 3/20/2007 11:18:25 AM # Q
** Think next time before you talk. You are making no sense whatsoever! **


I just died. :-o

Pat Horne

RE: they shouldn't oppose it
merf71 @ 3/21/2007 3:34:53 PM # Q
Wireless carriers don't want to lose money, plain and simple. WiFi on a device like a Treo could take away from both their data and voice business (Skype). In my area, data plans are for the most part not what I would call reasonable. Those that are, personally are still not justifiable given the frequency with which I would use it.

Sure the T|X is great for surfing given the screen real estate, but then I still have to carry a phone as well. I think the point of carrying a Treo is to consolidate devices. I switched from a cell phone and Palm m515 that completely served my needs to a Kyocera QCP-7135 (the only Palm device my carrier has ever had) because I only wanted to carry one device. I still use the 7135 in hopes that the rumored Treo 755p will come to U.S. Cellular. I haven't switched carriers because I'm grandfathered into a great plan and keeping monthly costs down is a big deal for me. I now also own a T|X but I don't carry it because I only want one device (and nobody seems to make a belt clip case as simple and good as the one Palm had for the Vx series). In 2007 if I want to carry only one device and sacrifice screen size to do so, it should at least have all the features of a good handheld. That includes WiFi even if all I want to use it for is connecting to my home network.

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Feature Crippling

stanner91 @ 3/19/2007 10:37:26 PM # Q
If an US cellphone company offers smartphones with built-in WiFi this will cut into the number of people who will sign up for their lucrative, severely regulated data plans. In their contracts you can only use their access for certain purposes (Web, email, VPN)and can your contract terminated if you don't comply. However, cell companies are doing other things to cripple our phones. In fact they disable features on current models in the US and also limit the number of phones offered. Tim Wu is a Columbia law professor who writes about net neutrality as well as feature crippling and on NPR's program, On the Media, discussed a recent article he wrote, Wireless Net Neutrality: Cellular Carterfone and Consumer Choice in Mobile Broadband. Check out his website or read the transcript of the program at:

I hope that there is someway to pressure these companies to give us better (and currently available) phones and services.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
-Albert Einstein

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