Do We Even Need Cellular?

by Colin Berkshire

Are cellular companies in trouble? Perhaps!

In recent travels I crossed a tour group of students from Hong Kong. They were traveling the world rather freely. We got to talking about what they used for cell service in the different countries. They used no cell company. They just used WeChat, the texting app that now offers voice and video calls for free from any WiFi.

They explained that WiFi was everywhere and they didn’t need to be called most of the time. WeChat was all they needed. They could call and talk from anywhere they were, in any country.

Something clicked in my brain and I realized that it’s really possible to live without a cellular carrier.

If your friendship community is all on WeChat then this is all you need. You can be called, you can have video calls, and you have text and voice mail. It’s the whole unified communications right there in one package. And, WeChat is huge: hundreds of millions of users.

And, if you aren’t Asian based and don’t have a strong WeChat community you probably could do the same thing with Skype, or even SIP/VOIP.

Why. Come to think of it, isn’t WeChat what unified communications has always tried to be? But instead of making the phone call first and voicemail the backup it’s the other way around. You send a text or voicemail message and then may transition into a phone call or video call. Asynchronous communications is the default. Hmmm. It makes sense.

So with this WeChat model you only need a SIM if you need to communicate in a car or at any time. Frankly, I don’t welcome most of those real-time intrusions and would welcome more communications being asynchronous.

Combine thins with HotSpot 2.0 where you can be globally authenticated on hotspots worldwide and really, you just don’t need a cell phone company at all.

This new model really has me worried whether the 5~10 year future of Verizon and AT&T isn’t in serious troubles.

Perhaps this is why Verizon sold off all of their towers so that they could buy AOL and why AT&T bought Direct-TV instead of building out their cellular network. Perhaps they know that cellular is basically a doomed industry.

If the cellular carriers actually understand that they are doomed, then their actions make perfect sense. It would be smart to not invest in your own network, and it would be smart to diversify into greener pastures such as the burgeoning AOL business and the cable-cut Direct TV. Why else would these dodo bird companies look attractive?

Wow. Cellular is a growing but ultimately dead industry!