Sunday, June 18, 2017

Disruptors and Mobile Internet

The focus this week was on disruptive technology; technology that significantly changes the way things are generally done in an industry. Over the last several years, dozens of articles have been published discussing potential disruptors. The lists are never the same, but many correctly predicted energy storage, 3-D printing, and autonomous vehicles as technologies to watch. The one staple on every list was mobile internet.

Technology related to mobile internet has grown tremendously over the past few years with the emergence of 5G, but there are still flaws with the technology that new companies are looking to exploit. Traditional cell services have problems with interference between cell towers and a devices internet speed is reduced when more people connect to the same tower at the same time.

pCell, “personal cell” created by Artemis, is a technology that looks to resolve these problems and make current mobile internet technology obsolete. At its core, pCell is designed to provide full internet speed without degradation, creating a strong, unique signal for each device that is immune from interference. 

One company that is already putting this technology into use is Google, who recently purchased Webpass, a wireless ISP. In recent years, Google has begun entering the ISP market, deploying Google Fiber in Kansas City in 2011 and slowly expanding to other cities. At nearly every stop, Google has encountered immense pushback from the incumbent providers serving the city. Fiber rollout requires use of utility poles often owned by the incumbents who aren’t interested in new competitors.

After their purchase of Webpass, Google shifted their focus to cities with a potential for a wireless expansion; dense cities with large apartments and businesses. Using the pCell technology, Google is able to bypass the logistical problems of building physical infrastructure and works with building owners to install the necessary equipment directly to the building. The price for the service is lower and speeds are up to 8x faster than average speeds from traditional ISPs and the tenants in the building don’t need special equipment, a standard router is the only requirement. The pCell technology automatically splits based on the building unit, while retaining advertised speeds.

From the outside, it looks like Google and Webpass are well positioned to take advantage of the expanding market. There is price competition and quality competition in a market that generally has few options for a customer. As the technology matures, residential installations are likely, but for now they are growing at a structured pace, only pursuing large apartments and businesses that allow for a significant ROI, while not overinvesting and allowing for shifts as the market dictates.


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