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Alexis Ternoy
Alexis Ternoy 18 January 2016
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Cutting The Cord 2.0: The WiFi Phone Revolution

It is now entirely possible to operate your smartphone on WiFi networks and not see huge losses in quality of service.

Cutting the cord feels great- we can finally stick it to those cable companies who have been charging absurd prices for worthless TV for decades now.

Now there’s another cord to cut, and you could stand to save just as much money, if not more.  It’s the cord to your cell phone company with it’s similarly outrageous pricing, lock-you-in contracts, and tricky pricing schemes.

Cutting the Cord- Phase Two

It is now entirely possible to operate your smartphone on WiFi networks and not see huge losses in quality of service.  Granted, people in remote areas may have to wait a little longer for their WiFi Revolution, but it’s coming.

How is this possible?  You’re probably aware of “WiFi” signs popping up in businesses…first in cafes and then in other retail locations like The Underground and McDonald’s.  In the US, Nordstrom, representing the supreme apotheosis of customer service in the retail industry, has had free WiFi in their stores since 2010. In comparison John Lewis enable free wifi for their customer in 2011.

While thats is great for shopping or sipping lattes, it hardly fulfills our wireless needs, see my article about The Laptop is The New Factory.  Now there is also a raging network of WiFi hotspots operated by cable companies.

Cable companies are leading the way with cord-cutting!

Yes, that is an ironic twist: the cable companies we have been so desperate to cut loose from in the “Cutting the Cord” revolution are the very ones making the WiFi Phone Revolution possible.  Partly, anyway.

Both TimeWarnerCable and Comcast now have very extensive WiFi hotspot networks which make it possible to be WiFi-only on your smartphone…seamlessly in many areas.

Industry analysts thought it would never happen.  But what they might not have foreseen was the crushing effect of the original cord-cutting revolution on cable companies.  They are losing cable TV subscribers left and right and have been since 2011.

Losing 1 to 2 million customers a year turned out to be just the thing to spur some creative outside-the-box thinking at Comcast and TimeWarner.  They now offer a growing network of free wifi hotspots blanketing the United States, allowing for a WiFi-only existence at least part of the time for their customers. O2 and British Telecom follow the path in the United Kingdom!

We are looking at total disruption in the cellphone industry

Cell phone companies are now the ones who stand to lose.  After decades of investing in cell phone towers, they are now facing a bleak future, if they dare to look far enough ahead.

Not that many people feel sorry for them.  They have been sticking it to us for years, although perhaps it “is” very expensive to maintain all those cell phone towers allowing for even the remotest of areas to have coverage.

Many are already there

For many of the more tech-courageous, this is old news.  Republic Wireless has been offering a hybrid cell tower/WiFi phone service since 2011.

They even had a daring $5/month plan (WiFi only) for extreme urbanites who rarely if ever left their cozy network of WiFi hotspots.

Plans used to be about $20 per month.  Now they start at $25 per month.  Even Republic’s most expensive plan, the Large Plan, is cheap by comparison: $55.

Cell phone companies are finally, reluctantly, getting on board with this

O2 now offers a WiFi phone hotspot network for its residential internet customers.  But if they didn’t already have an internet division in place, they would be in panic mode by now.

T-Mobile was the first carrier to support Wi-Fi calling.  AT&T has been the last and it’s still not amazingly clear if they offer it or not yet.  It was on the slate for 2015, though.

What could be the delay?  WiFi calling requires a seamless handoff for when you are talking and suddenly lose WiFi capability…the phone should hand you off to a cell phone tower.  The technology is called Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) and before cell phone carriers can offer WiFi calling, they need to get that in place first.

Cut the cord: there’s nothing to be afraid of

Going WiFi isn’t the risk you might think it is.  You always have the safety net of cell towers if you should be in a WiFi dead zone.  Progressive companies like Republic Wireless will even credit you for using WiFi whenever possible…you get an actual refund on your bill if you don’t use much cell tower juice!

And yes, if the power goes out so does your Wifi.  And don’t even think of making a phone call in the car- we’re just not there yet.

But access points are literally being built daily, so it is going to get even better.  And besides, nobody is saying you have to be 100% WiFi…this revolution is about cutting the cord to your cell phone plan with its contractual obligations and gut-wrenching pricing, not the cord to cell phone towers…at least not yet.

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