You might not need a mobile carrier by 2020 – CNN.COM

Wi-Fi is ubiquitous.

No longer the realm of coffee shops and homes, Wi-Fi spans entire neighborhoods. Trains, planes and automobiles are Wi-Fi equipped. Cruise ships have Wi-Fi. Comcast has even made every customer’s router into a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

That’s good news if you’re a cell phone user. The more you email, watch Netflix, stream Pandora and surf Facebook  over Wi-Fi,the fewer gigabytes you have to buy from your cell phone company. Plus, calls and texts are now able to be sent over Wi-Fi too.

So what do you need your cell phone company for?

A new generation of hotspots lets you seamlessly switch between Wi-Fi and 4G-LTE service, and they offer improved encryption. But Wi-Fi’s security issues likely won’t be resolved by 2016, Macquarie predicts.

Google tests Wi-Fi balloons
Google tests Wi-Fi balloons

Still, the clock is ticking for 4G.

4G’s limitations are inherent in the technology that makes it work: Airwaves are limited, and you can only cram so much data into one MHz of spectrum.

That’s why the two biggest carriers — AT&T and Verizon  — place data caps on their customers. Only about one-third of U.S. cable customers have an idea of how much data they’re downloading each month on their home Wi-Fi networks, but two-thirds of wireless customers track their usage, according to Macquarie.

Verizon, for example, could be offloading as much as a quarter of its mobile data traffic onto Wi-Fi networks by 2018, Macquarie predicts, costing the company nearly $1.4 billion a year in lost revenue.

Verizon could recoup those lost sales by partnering with cable companies like Comcast. Verizon could sell Comcast its wireless airwaves, providing Comcast with a 4G “quad-play” option.

That’s why wireless carriers will likely be jockeying for position to partner with cable companies, particularly Comcast. With Sprint’s  sub-par 4G network, AT&T’s ties to U-Verse, and Verizon’s FiOS and congestion issues, T-Mobile is the likeliest wireless company to win over Big Cable, Macquarie predicts

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