For those who have been in the wireless sector for the last three years, the issue of Wi-Fi and cellular interaction is nothing new. In fact, back about three years ago, a set of panelists at the CTIA Wireless show took exhaustive efforts to discuss how Wi-Fi and cellular were actually complimentary, not competitive.
Well three years later, it appears that the promise of the industry a few years back are now starting to come to fruition. After a ton of hype, this year's CTIA show, which is being held this week in New Orleans, is proving to be the launch pad for cellular/Wi-Fi integration. A host of handset manufacturers, including Kyocera and Nokia . Chip companies, like TI, and equipment vendors, like BelAir, have also jumped in.
Now that the technology is in place, you have to questions whether or not carriers can make money by adding Wi-Fi to a mobile. T-Mobil and other carriers around the world have tried for a long-time to make money by offering hot spot networks. While interest is growing, most feel that these networks haven't prospered as some thought early on, especially with some companies, hotels, and coffee shops/restaurants offering free Wi-Fi.
By embedding Wi-Fi in the phone, however, carriers are hoping they can add a value-add, revenue-generating service. It will be some time before we can actually determine how profitable this model will be. But, it's safe to say that the cellular sector has some smart people and you have to believe they'll work this one out.