Dueling Dual Networks

from the for-what-purpose-exactly... dept

Back in October, we wrote about plans in Taiwan to cover the entire island in WiFi. It looks like they’re trying to get that project moving, but it’s changed a bit, such that they’re now promoting how it will be a “dual network” offering both WiFi and GPRS. GPRS? Yes, the slow, problematic 2.5G solution (the article mistakenly calls it 3G) that is going to be obsolete long before any such network is built. Anyway, as Jeremy Wagstaff points out the article has a typo in the headline, where it refers to “duel” networks, instead of dual networks. Still, (again, as Wagstaff says), that might be fairly accurate. If you’re going to offer both, then they’re going to be more competitive. Normally, “converged” solutions involving WiFi and cellular should make sense because it uses WiFi where there’s WiFi and drops down to slower cellular networks when out of range of WiFi. However, if WiFi really is going to be spread across the island, why have the “dual” system? The most obvious answer is for voice calls over mobile phones, but given a WiFi network, it’s probably cheaper and better to go with a VoWiFi phone. While there aren’t that many now, they’ll be coming — especially if the broad WiFi networks are there. Another possibility is that Taiwan may be realizing that covering the entire island in WiFi isn’t really practical and it may face technical hurdles from installing so many base stations — in which case the GPRS system becomes more or less a “backup network.” Of course, there’s just something about WiFi/cellular convergence that seems to make people come up with pointless “converged” offerings. For example, BT’s absolutely ridiculous Bluephone offering that makes no sense at all. It’s supposed to do WiFi from the phone to a base station, where that base station uses a cellular connection to make the call. In other words, you’re using cellular anyway — so why not just use the cellular radio in the phone itself? I guess because that doesn’t sound “converged.”

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