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Kagan: How Wi-Fi, Private Wireless, FWA can use coopetition to win

Coopetition is when competitors work as partners and both win

Over the years, we have been watching the wireless and telecom industry change and expand into new technologies like Private Wireless, Wi-Fi 7 and FWA. Plus, other new tech like AI, IoT and much more are poised to take things further and faster than ever before. So, if all these new technologies work well separately, can they also work well together?

Do you remember the term coopetition? This is when competitors find ways to work together and benefit both. This worked for in the past, a decade or two ago. As the partners continued to grow and change, this was good for every company involved.

As a Principal Analyst I see coopetition starting to make a comeback

Then, over time, as these companies moved out of synch, coopetition fell out of favor.

Today, as a Principal Industry Analyst and columnist who follows wireless, telecom, AI and more, I see coopetition, partnerships and M&A starting to make a comeback. So, how far will it go this time around?

Over the decades, I both give and receive presentations with companies and their management. 

Sometimes it’s a video Zoom or Skype briefing. Other times it’s in-person. Sometimes over a briefing table. Other times over lunch. 

Executives want long-term, historical briefing on changing industry

Because of my level of industry influence, executives want to make sure I am up-to-speed on their companies and the changing industry. They want me to know where they are and where they are heading in comparison to the competition and the industry.

Other times they seek my opinion on the changing industry. The purpose is to continually look at the ever-changing marketplace and where it is heading. To make sure they stay on the growth track. 

I have learned over time that senior executives at companies need a longer-term understanding to plan which direction they need to go. This helps them stay with the ever-changing growth curve, steer their company and remain on track, and keep their leadership position.

Industry Analyst briefed Samsung senior execs about AI and future

Recently, I gave a presentation to the Samsung CEO and senior executives. They wanted to better understand how new technology like AI is impacting and will transform their industries. 

They do this in order to learn where things are going, so they can continue to be a leader in all the industries they operate in.

I am sure they are talking with a number of people with powerful opinions. This is good. This is what every company needs to do on an ongoing basis.

One item I discussed with Samsung is the idea of coopetition. 

Today, I see coopetition starting up again in the wireless and telecom sectors. And if we pull the camera back, many other sectors as well.

Could coopetition last longer this time around?

Last time around, coopetition lasted a while then ultimately collapsed. So, the question this time around is could it become a long-term growth strategy?

As new technologies continue to grow, I have been briefed by many senior executives in many different companies who offer services like Private Wireless, Wi-Fi and FWA. 

While they all make sense separately, they don’t yet sound like they are considering working together. 

I encourage competitors to consider this option. So, why should they consider working together in a robust bundle of services rather than compete in their separate sector? That could be better for all every supplier and their customers.

Especially if their competitors are starting to do it. Remember, early adopters gain a competitive advantage for a while. Then, once it becomes commonplace, other competitors will jump in as well. 

Wi-Fi NOW Conference should discuss coopetition and the future

Recently, I was speaking with Claus Hetting, CEO and Chairman of the conference Wi-Fi NOW being held in Sarasota Florida next month.

I have attended and spoken at more conferences and meetings over the years than I can remember. These can be a terrific place to discuss and debate what’s new, and what’s coming next. 

I believe Wi-Fi NOW is an opportunity to discuss coopetition and get the ball rolling.

Every conference where competitors gather should discuss coopetition

In fact, I believe every conference where competitors gather and discuss trends should start to consider the coming coopetition wave.

You see, Wi-Fi has been with us since 1997, and has grown better, stronger and faster ever since. Today, we are up to Wi-Fi 7. Think about this like wireless moving from 2G to 5G over the past few decades. 

Wi-Fi started out like private wireless and FWA. As time passed and new versions were introduced it got better and stronger.

Hetting told me this year’s Wi-Fi NOW event will focus on innovation and opportunity like 6 GHz Wi-Fi for the home, enterprise, ISP and MSP. They focus on the Wi-Fi evolution sweeping across the industry. And that will continue moving forward.

Coopetition, M&A and partnerships are increasing

The so far unanswered question is, will coopetition and partnership play an important role, going forward?

Remember, the last version of coopetition worked until the companies moved out of alignment. Then they started to drift apart, and coopetition ended. 

And like with any breakup, it wasn’t pretty to watch. There were lawsuits being brought right and left. It was like a bad marriage. 

That being said, today’s marketplace seems to be juggling all sorts of new and competitive ideas and technology like AI, IoT, private wireless, FWA, Wi-Fi and more. 

When competitors battle, only one wins, but coopetition lets both win

When Wi-Fi and Private Wireless companies compete, the current thought seems to be only one can win. However, when two work together, then can both win. 

Plus, the customer gets the strength of more than one technology to solve their communications problems. 

The benefits of co-marketing more than one technology are that one-plus-one could equal more than two.

Private Wireless, Wi-Fi and FWA get better every year

Think about how technology has improved over time.

  • Wi-Fi started nearly three decades ago. Back then it was not as good as it is today, but, over time it just kept getting better.
  • Private Wireless began years later. Only in the last few years has the race really picked up steam. This technology is younger than Wi-Fi but is taking the same route to improve with more speed, flexibility, security and more as it grows. Partnership has already begun here. 
  • Fixed Wireless Access or FWA for short, is the new technology behind wireless broadband being offered by wireless carriers. Competitors say it is not as fast as wireline broadband. Others say the connection is sometimes not as consistent as wired broadband.

Over time, I fully expect FWA to continue to get better, year-after-year, version-after-version. 

Today, the benefit to FWA is it is significantly less expensive compared to the cable television or telephone company wireline broadband.

So, as you can see, there are a variety of different technologies competing for the consumer and the enterprise attention. 

Some customers need the top-of-the-line and fastest service and are willing to pay for it. Others prefer to save money and use something lower scale.

Technology like FWA is a new service which should help wireless carriers grow. However, this is bad news for the cable TV industry and telephone company wireline broadband. Especially, with the massive price difference.

Private Wireless, Wi-Fi and FWA should work together 

Today, there are not companies who deliver all these services. That’s where coopetition seems to make perfect sense.

I suggest the different industry sectors embrace the idea of coopetition. This would let each provider offer a variety of services, even if they don’t offer it themselves.

This way customers can choose one company to work with. That provider will have a partnership with others so every competitor can offer everything to everyone.

If that’s the case, going forward there will be a whole lot of partnering going on. If that’s the case, every competitor could offer every service to every customer.

Perhaps coopetition will lead to longer-term partnerships or even mergers this time around rather than bickering and lawsuits. 

In fact, M&A could indeed play an important role as we move forward. Something to think about.


Jeff Kagan
Jeff Kagan
Jeff is a RCR Wireless News Columnist, Industry Analyst, Key Opinion Leader and Influencer. He shares his colorful perspectives and opinions on the companies and technologies that are transforming the industry he has followed for 35 years. Jeff follows wireless, wire line telecom, Internet, Pay-TV, cable TV, AI, IoT, Digital Healthcare, Cloud, Mobile Pay, Smart cities, Smart Homes and more.