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Do You Need a Multi-Carrier Mobile Communications Hub?

For power users, a single mobile service provider and smartphone is not enough. The need for complete coverage, higher speeds, and unlimited bandwidth to a multitude of devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops that can be shared with friends, family, co-workers, and clients has created a market opportunity for a Multi-Carrier Mobile Communications Hub. This device represents the next generation of the idea of "Mi-Fi," with the key addition of supporting multiple cellular networks concurrently.

Power users travel extensively and rely on their mobile networks to communicate and collaborate with co-workers, clients, and friends and family. Video conferencing, file & print sharing, creating content, and VPN access work better on tablets and laptops than smartphones. Enabling each device with a cellular data connection is expensive and cumbersome, thus the use of Mi-Fi devices.

Mi-Fi stands for "My Wi-Fi". A Mi-Fi device can be connected to a Mobile Service Provider (cellular carrier) and provide Internet access for up to 5 devices. Instead of getting a cellular data card for a work laptop, home laptop, and tablet for yourself, your co-workers, and/or your family and their multitude of devices, a Mi-Fi offers one cellular connection that can be shared. A Mi-Fi supports both 3 and 4G data networks. Newer smartphones have this "hotspot" capability included, but an additional carrier data plan is required.

The downside of today's Mi-Fi devices is that they only work on a single carrier's network. Here in the U.S., we have AT&T and Verizon that offer good coverage but with fixed data rate plans such as 5Gig/month, and then we have Sprint and T-Mobile that have spotty coverage, especially with the faster 4G service, but they offer unlimited plans. Across the globe, users have to make the choice between coverage, speed, and unlimited/low cost bandwidth. There is a subset of the market that has the need for all three, and this market will grow as VoLTE and OTT (over the top) mobile Voice and Video services take off.

A Multi-Carrier Mobile Communications Hub would support all the major carriers and the user could select which data plans to choose. The device would have the intelligence to understand which networks had the better coverage, speeds, and rates in a given area. A user could select options based on performance and value such as:

1) Best Performance--Regardless of data plan cost, the best performance available for that spot. Useful for those critical mobile business WebEx and video conferencing presentations. The advanced version would even allow data transmission across multiple carriers simultaneously to ensure highest speeds possible and put interactive voice & video applications at a higher priority.

2) Best Value--Take into consideration plan and network available and utilize the unlimited data plans as much as possible. The advanced version would force multi-media downloads to only go across the unlimited data plans.

3) Lowest Cost--Unlimited plans only except for voice and texts. The advanced version would rate-limit multimedia downloads so that regular surfing and interactive applications have minimal impact.

Additional features could include: 32Gbytes of storage, external antenna, support for pre-paid plans, Wi-Fi uplink, and a 6-hour battery.

The down side is the monthly charge for 2 or more data plans. This cost can be offset by minimizing data plan overages, not paying for Wi-Fi usage at hotels, and utilizing Skype and other OTT services for voice/video calls. One could go so far as to eliminate the carrier voice & data plans on smartphones and only utilize the Wi-Fi connection on them. I have tried this and it works well for calls where I can be stationary and decide which cellular network to use. But for on- the-move calling, the OTT services do not work as well since data network performance varies as one travels.

As a consumer who works a lot on the road, this has been my evolution:

* 4 years ago--1 smart phone, 1 standard mobile phone, and one USB air-card for my laptop with Skype for international voice calling, all on a single mobile service provider. The reason for 2 phones is it is common for me to be on a conference call and need to call another person in the interim, like a production support issue.

* 2 years ago--2 smart phones and a Mi-Fi and adding Skype Video Conferencing and a tablet for reading books and watching movies, all on a single mobile service provider. I bring my own projector and run my own conferencing services when presenting to clients and do not rely on their network.

* Current--2 smart phones with hot-spots on two different mobile service providers since my incumbent carrier instituted a 5G standard limit and I continue to consume a lot more bandwidth and no longer use TiVo. Almost all my conferences calls have some video.

* Future--1 standard mobile phone and one communications hub. The phone is for calls and texts on the move, and the tablet for most of my communication (email and conferencing) and the laptop when I need to produce content and collaborate. Moving to HD video.

The trends are more devices, more video conferencing and entertainment, and more use of OTT communication services. This requires more bandwidth with continued great coverage. Eventually with VoLTE and the retirement of 3G networks, all of a carrier's mobile communication will be on one network. Even then, carriers will still have different coverage, speeds, and plans which will make multiple services better than one. Until mobile devices are no longer locked to a single carrier, the Multi-Carrier Mobile Communications Hub is the answer for power users. No one likes being at the mercy of a single vendor.