RIMarkable Read: Why Wireless Carriers Hate Wi-Fi

Do you remember when we first started hearing about the BlackBerry 8800? One of the main features, so we thought, was Wi-Fi. Now that the BlackBerry 8800 is here, no Wi-Fi.

What gives?

It it isn’t like the technology isn’t here. Other manufacturers put Wi-Fi in their devices of similar size. Many say that the BlackBerry 8800 actually has Wi-Fi built in and that it is just disabled by they carriers. If this is the case, why in the world would a wireless carrier disable a feature that just about everyone wants?

Because Wireless carriers hate Wi-Fi.

Hate is a very strong word so I will qualify it just a bit. Wireless carriers “hate” Wi-Fi that they don’t control and sell to you. It is one thing when a wireless carrier doesn’t make money because of technology. It is quite another when they lose money because of it and that’s exactly what will happen when when Wi-Fi starts popping up in BlackBerrys and other smartphones that historically haven’t had Wi-Fi built in.

You may be saying to yourself, “This can’t be true. Many other smartphones are Wi-Fi enabled.” Well, you would be right, however, you have to look at the history of those devices. Remember the Palm Pilot? It was the BlackBerry before the BlackBerry was the BlackBerry. If you think back, Palm started sticking Wi-Fi Palm devices long before the Treo came out. You have the same situation with Windows Mobile, then Pocket PC, devices. You had Wi-Fi PCMCIA cards, SD cards, and PDAs with built-in Wi-Fi, before smartphones started to become popular.

As Palm and Microsoft starting coming out with wireless in their devices, carriers had to accommodate for Wi-Fi to some extent because so much of those devices functionality for the previous 3 years was built around Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi was a necessary evil as far as the carriers were concerned.

This, however, is not the case for BlackBerrys and other smartphones that historically, haven’t had Wi-Fi. Carriers have been able to charge a premium for unlimited data plans on BlackBerry devices because of their always on nature to email that has made the BlackBerry the most popular smartphone / PDA on the planet. Truth be told, however, email uses a very small amount of data in the grand scheme of things. Web browsing, downloading attachments, and all the new multimedia things that you can do on the latest model BlackBerrys are what eat up bandwidth.

Additionally, these are the things that would be best suited for using a Wi-Fi connection for if one was available. By the BlackBerry 8800 not being 3G, it’s users may become all too familiar with switching to Wi-Fi mode when it is available. In fact, users may start to opt out of those unlimited data plans, simply because Wi-Fi is faster and possibly even free. Remember, email doesn’t actually use all that much data.

Oh, and let’s not forget about Voice Over IP. Can you imagine a BlackBerry with Skype Client that for around $30 bucks per year a user could make unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada? The Wireless carriers can.

That’s why wireless carriers hate Wi-Fi.

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Comments [9 Responses]

RIMarkable Read: Why Wireless Carriers Hate Wi-Fi | RIMarkable | The official, unofficial BlackBerry Weblog
February 20th, 2007 at 8:29 am

[…] Our second installment of RIMarkable Read has been posted over on BlackBerry Cool. This time we tell you why wireless carriers hate Wi-Fi. […]

February 20th, 2007 at 10:14 am

This is a fallacy, IMHO. It’s a matter of the manufacturers caving to the carriers… Something that I would have hoped would be long in the past given what a number Steve Jobs did on Cingular with the iPhone.

If RIM insisted on giving it’s customers WiFi, and wouldn’t take no for an answer from Cingular/at&t, then we’d have the WiFi we so desire.

Why do the 8125, 8525, and other Windows mobile phones have WiFi and the 8800 does not? It’s long overdue for RIM to give it’s customers what they want rather than giving Cingular what it wants.


February 20th, 2007 at 11:33 am

Totally agree on why the carriers are reluctant to embrace WiFi.

However, it would be interesting to know the dynamics of exactly why and how so many Windows Mobile devices have WiFi. I’m not so sure it’s because previous WM pda’s had that feature and carriers felt compelled to allow that as some sort of legacy inclusion. With Palm, their Treos don’t have WiFi.

My guess is that it may just be plain old pressure from Microsoft, just like it was most likely pressure from Apple that allowed the iPhone to have WiFi. I have to agree with Stacy, that it seems the manufacturer has to push back in order to get this feature in. Of course, Microsoft and Apple do have clout that most other vendors do not or at least don’t think they do.

February 21st, 2007 at 12:50 am

Questions! Why American consumers put up with such unfair charges from the carriers??? Are they so blind to easily give their hard earn money to make the carriers even powerful?

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