- MVNO aims to deliver higher speeds with new MiFi modem
- Claims to be able to ‘de-fracture spectrum’ into potential highway
ONE of the boldest announcements at the Mobile World Congress (MWC 2016) in Barcelona this week came from Malaysian-based regional mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), Tune Talk Sdn Bhd.
With its attention-grabbing (and headshake-generating) ‘Are You Ready for 8G?’ press release, the company announced it was launching “a ground-breaking and revolutionary service which will unify any and all emerging spectrums to create a singular point-to-point broadband connectivity OTA (Over the Air) with absolutely zero expenditure on infrastructure.”
MWC was chosen as the venue for the announcement as Tune Talk wanted to reach out to mobile network operators (MNOs) and MVNOs across the globe to look at a new business model which has been almost two years in the making, chief executive officer Jason Lo (pic above) told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
When asked to elaborate on the business model, Lo would only say, “We have developed a business model which will widen the availability of high-speed data and affordable costs despite what any detractors may say.”
“We are also poised for the Middle East, and having something this unique available to us cuts through many issues which could pose barriers to entry in many markets,” he added.
The unique product Lo referred to is a MiFi modem developed by an MSC Malaysia status company, Swag Technologies Sdn Bhd (‘Swag’ stands for ‘Super WiFi Anywhere you Go’), which Lo claimed is “able to simultaneously run multiple networks as a singular connection.”
MiFis are wireless routers that act as mobile WiFi hotspots and work with SIM cards.
Oh, and 8G? It’s not Eighth Generation from a technical specification, but just clever marketing, in case you are wondering. “It's our affectionate name for the service,” says Lo meaning two 4G networks are added together as in 4G+4G.
Most MiFis come with one SIM slot but there are now increasing number of multi-SIM MiFis as well, with one Finnish company even producing a MiFi with 10 SIM slots.
Having more than one SIM slot in a MiFi is simply a matter of convenience to users who would not have to swap SIMs if they either run out their data quota or are in an area with poor reception, and need to use a SIM from a different MNO.
The point to this being that users’ data experience is only as good as the service they are getting from each MNO they are getting their data package from.
As a consequence, Lo described each network as a silo with service levels and business rules unique to that MNO.
“In practice, this translates to a single cellular site on a tower suffering from potential congestion by the maximum capacity of data traffic it can carry,” he said.
With each MNO looking at its own needs, on a higher level, Lo said this results in spectrum allocation being inefficient in its use and application.
And this is why he is excited about what Tune Talk plans to do with Swag’s patent-pending MiFi solution, which for MNOs, involves no additional expenditure on infrastructure.
“Swag has developed a unique technology which de-fractures the spectrum, effectively into a potential whole highway, forcing the MNOs to focus on what they should be focusing on, which is the best dumb-pipe philosophy,” he declared.
Lo claimed that during Tune Talk’s own tests, “we have achieved steady speeds of 66Mbps in rush-hour Kuala Lumpur city spots, and highs of 114Mbps in suburbs such Subang [Jaya].
“What's more important than the speed is the robustness of simultaneously running multiple networks as a singular connection,” he said.
When asked specifically on how the tests were done and under what circumstances, Lo said, “These are drive tests, of which hundreds have been performed.
“In every single case, the device out-performed any single network, because the networks are added together,” he added.
Lo also said that Tune Talk tested with as many concurrent users as an MNO would have experienced in a single site.
However, a former network engineer pointed out to DNA that conducting ‘drive tests’ would not be consistent with average user WiFi behaviour – people usually access the network when stationary.
And while details are not available about how Swag actually can deliver different operator spectrums as a single connection, the network engineer acknowledged that this would be a breakthrough if the execution matches the hyperbole.
No doubt the MNOs will have a lot more to say about Lo’s claims of high speeds on a singular connection, and about Swag being “the fastest, most robust data device in the world, which just happens to be delivering data over the most popular data delivery method in the world – WiFi.”
One senior executive in a Malaysian telco dismissed the hyperbole in Tune Talk’s press release as coming from “a copy writer on steroids.”
But Lo expected the naysayers.
“When people don't understand something new, it’s too easy to dismiss it. I met a South Korean service provider on Tuesday who told me they won’t need this in South Korea as their networks are already fast enough.
“I asked, ‘What about for 3D Augmented Reality running on HD16k with Dolby 7.1 surround sound and 8 million subscribers playing World Of Warcraft simultaneously across the entire country? Or for the next app which eats data for breakfast which no one has anticipated yet?’
“ ‘Point taken’ was the response,” claimed Lo.
With the launch of the product tentatively scheduled for only the third quarter of this year, it is too early to say if the technology will actually work, with the bigger challenge being around the business model, the target market being large enough, and convincing other MNOs to join in.
“This device, being the first of its kind in the world, requires more than one network to operate in its efficiency,” said Lo, adding, “We are happy to lead in this.”
With Tune Talk being part of the Tony Fernandes-owned Tune Group, taking risks and being a trailblazer are par for the course for Lo.
Lo is not only the chief executive officer of Tune Talk, but was the one who proposed the idea of an MVNO to Fernandes, who promptly asked him to run the show even though Lo came from a music entertainment background.
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