The post where I mentioned the inefficiency in the frequency market has raised some questions, so I would like to make clear what is being done wrong and what is missing. And because he is missing us. We are talking about WiFi MAN (Metropolitan Area Network).
Let's start from one point: how things are now.
The frequencies (of the frequency blocks, in reality) are sold with a national public auction, which allows in fact the purchase by only the national telephone operators. To understand how insane this thing is, imagine that tomorrow it will be done at European level, and that only one operator in Europe can buy a given frequency, ensuring its use on the whole continent.
Obviously, you will say that this is a disaster because by doing so only huge operators can participate, while national operators could not. Here, good.
Now back to the national situation, and let's go to the same question: why only a national operator? Why is it not possible to buy, I know, from the city, a frequency cut for services to be used for ISP citizens?
Here comes the point: people would answer me "but what are citizens' ISPs for? They are too small! " Well, then I can do it at European level: what good are national telephone operators? Aren't they too small?
The correct answer obviously lies between. An operator is too small, but it always depends on what he is doing.
I will give you an example: I bought a WIFI electrical outlet, an IP44 for outdoor use (ok, ok: IP44 is not really for outdoor use, but in fact it is under a roof, so it's just a precaution) that I use to program via wifi my Christmas lights. Good.
The trouble with this Meross stuff is that once I get into my WIFI it just goes to a Chinese server to do all the things it has to do. Now, my problem is that when it comes to turning on and off Christmas lights, who cares if the server is Chinese. If it should go down because the Chinese company disappears, patience: 13 euros thrown away, and the most that could happen to me is that the Christmas lights would always stay on or always off.
But if we try to imagine that this stuff controls equipment INSIDE the house, and I say relevant consumer appliances, with the cabbage that I rely on a Chinese server. The "internetization" of devices that have local functions is a stupid thing, dangerous in terms of security, and even in terms of data management I don't know what the Chinese do with the precious information that my Christmas lights are lit .
So, let's go back: tomorrow we want my house to "give up" electricity from the solar panels to the house beyond the hill, which is in the shade, and I want that when the sun moves and I'm in the shade I, but they are in the sun , my house receives excess energy. Good. There are so many projects of this type. Only that they require a cloud in the US, Ireland, or China.
Do you know what I tell you? But also no.
We cannot base civil infrastructures on the hope that someone on the other side of the world can be reached. Even ignoring the fact that data transport costs up to a couple of KWh per GB, and the fact that at most this thing should be done by my electricity company and not by Amazon, the risks far outweigh the advantages.
There is no specific reason why I, from my living room, should ask a server in China to light my lights. Tantevvero that from now on I will buy 'taken with the remote control: I had to create a guest wifi to contain the IOT equipment, just' cause I do not want a cinesazzo come into my home wifi. And all this to imitate a remote control?
Some tell me not to worry, because the routers of the future (ah! The future!) Will come with a supersegregated Wifi Apposita (there are also today, but "supersegregated" makes you laugh). Others tell me that "there are no alternatives".
If we extend the example beyond my house lights, and we slip into all the appliances of a city, or a nation, we understand that an event like the "Facebook Down", which lasted 4 times hours, it would be catastrophic. All Western European household appliances that are blocked because an American company is down is not acceptable.
And the moment of "awakening" is extremely dangerous, because if these make all the air conditioners come back on at the same time, the electricity grid collapses.
Houston, we have a problem.
The reality is that we also NEED SMALL networks.
We say, in addition to the "Internet" as we know it, of a network on a city scale (traffic, smart grids, lights, waste collection, interconnected IoT, urban transport, urban ISPs, etc.) and regional-scale networks (always smart grid, logistics, mail, regional ISPs, interconnected IOTs etc).
I note the presence of "interconnected iot" because the concept of "IoT we have today is a beautiful and good bullshit. Of course, it makes me comfortable to be able to turn the lights on and off with my cell phone, but I could have bought a domestic IoT hub and avoided going to China.
Ni. Because you know that I'm a freak. And you know I have geek friends. And your Home Hubs for IoT services, in addition to being "intercompatible" only officially (in fact if you use the X brand you are limited to X brand IoT), sooner or later they tell you that if you REALLY want to enjoy Home Automation you have to to attack them on your WiFi, or the mobile network.
And here we are again at the point: my Home Hub, if it wants to communicate with my phone while I am three kilometers away, has to turn to a cloud that is on another continent.
The truth is that the use of home automation very rarely exceeds city boundaries, and almost never the boundaries of the region. Yes, there are those figs that want to control the Christmas lights while they are on holiday in the Maldives, but honestly if you are on holiday in the Maldives and want to check out the Christmas lights in Germany, you need some psychiatric help. And even good ones.
But even if you can or want to do it, the point is that you certainly didn't buy a Home Automation system to turn off the lights from the Maldives that time the year you go there.
But IoT also goes beyond simple Home Automation. There are all the smart city systems that, to date, can only be done by asking for help from telco who have the agility of an elephant in a coma. And then why couldn't a local company do specific services for the city, given that there are no two cities with the same needs?
Why do we need to ask a national telco what it takes to automate traffic lights a little bit?
The truth is, this shit is inefficient. To listen to the local radio on IP, as I do at home on the D-Telekom box, the signal actually starts from a cloud in Berlin. And if couch.de tomorrow has a problem, because maybe tomorrow United Internet AG sells it to someone again, what happens on the other side of Germany without radio? What an idiot.
Globalizing local reality means bringing scale problems into systems that DO NOT have scale problems.
The vast majority of "smart cities" traffic is within the city perimeter. The vast majority of social networking takes place between very few people. Advertising at a country hardware store in a global social network is of no use, a local social network would suffice and move forward.
We are globalizing things that may remain local, and we do it at the expense of:
- Risks. Internet is the next terrain of war between nations. A local reality struggles to manage all perimeter security.
- Costs. Bringing 1 GBi from Germany to the USA costs over 2 KWh.
- Wealth Extraction: we are making an American do a job that we could do at home.
If we wanted to make the market efficient, it would be better to proceed in this way:
- ALL the frequencies ALSO allocated on a city scale. The company that wants to use it participates in a local tender, or asks for a local, fast and inexpensive license. Even local utilities can have space to offer their services.
- ALL the frequencies ALSO allocated on a regional scale. The company that wants to make use of it takes part in a tender, or asks for a local license, in a fast and inexpensive way. Even regional utilities can use them for public services.
- Some frequencies allocated for national use. How it happens now.
This is what is missing. The first two points are missing. The first two points would, however, give the possibility to local ISPs to fill the coverage gaps of the big telcos, but they would also give the possibility to offer other services.
Yes, with the wimax there were regional competitions, but I talk about it below. First I would like to understand what is missing.
I would like to give another example (anecdotal) to clarify what we cannot do now. You may not know that having a child at school here is a job. The forms of school participation for parents are very articulated, lessons can be voluntarily given in after-school activities (not in all schools, but in my daughter's, it is possible to be available for an "AG") and money can be given to the school (directly on the special current account for fund raising) or "helping" as volunteers. Since they have lessons in "social media education", it was thought to install a school wifi with a Mastodon completely isolated from the internet (at the gymnasium here we start at 10 years), so that kids can use social media network "under control" and learn how to do it. So far so good, the servers had them (and even turned on BUT unused !!!) so it took me and two others to do everything.
But at 50 meters from the gymnasium there is a realschule (a technical institute, or almost, in the German gentilian school system). As the boys of the two schools meet during breaks, the Realschule also asked to have its own server, and to federate it. Good. Someone in the Realschule put up their petition, but they also want it closed, because even the Realschule starts at 10 years old. Understandable.
But then how do we make them talk?
The first proposal was to spend 50 euros for a wifi amplifier and combine the two wifi. Maybe corroborated by a high gain directional antenna. The distance is under 100 meters, and a pair of 8W amplifiers cover it very well, even in the German weather conditions, with tremendous humidity and monstrous absorption by trees and almost always damp ground.
But you can't. Tons of regulations forbid the use of these "very high powers" for wifi. Even for connections that are practical for directional purposes: we are talking about two high-traffic antennas that could be aligned with the theodolite, because there is optical visibility.
We had to use the school's internet connection and establish a VPN with IPSec between the two schools. With the "small" difference that the COSTA connection, and the two Mastodons, given in the hands of a total of 1400 students after having told them "without limits and costs", they have this tendency that "consummchiano gang".
Now, why can't you use a simple WIFi signal amplifier? (which, moreover, is for sale, despite being forbidden !!)
This is the point. There are so many useful and beautiful things that are not done simply because the IDEA receives too many regulatory obstacles. Forget the idea itself, which will soon (?) Be overcome by a school digitalization program of the NRW: it was not the example I wanted to talk about, but the concept.
We could have so many ideas, more or less crazy, from the cinemas that broadcast the films in the whole neighborhood, to the libraries that extend the radius of action, to the social networks of school without the risks related to the internet, civic social networks, anything come to mind. But you can't, because you have to go through the big networks, which have all the problems of global networks (geolocation difficulties, exposure to DDOS attacks, and more) but do not give a civic civic service any tangible advantage. And then, the famous IoT.
The choice to sell ALL the frequencies available as national frequencies to global (or at least national) providers is a tremendous market inefficiency. We are preventing small local realities (perhaps with ideas that could then grow) from maturing on the spot, within civic networks, and then maybe going out. The European cities could be the most gigantic incubator of ideas in history, and instead all the inventors are sent into Silicon Valley, to do things that are not financed if they are not "cool", and if they are important do not give a fuck to nobody.
We prefer a paradigm based on an absurd finance that exists only in the USA, that of "startups", when European cities offer a range of problems to solve that a pisquano in Silicon Valley will never imagine. Instead of allowing ideas to grow in our cities, where they would measure themselves against reality, we expect the inventors to all beg for money from Venture Capital, which in the end always reward the coolest idea, and never the most important.
Problems that could be solved without having servers in China, cloud in the USA, simply using local traffic on city or regional networks.
A noteworthy exception is WIMAX. The problem of the Wimax, however, is one: first of all the auctions were held with the competition of the big telcos, which then put them in the drawer because they compete with it. It is the case of:
But the second notable point is that the city segment is not present, which instead seems the most promising for IoT and local entrepreneurs. All the part of MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) seems to be ignored.
Furthermore, although there is a "mobile" Wimax standard, there are not very many phones that can use it. While Wifi and 4 / 5G will be on every mobile device.
Ultimately, that is, it is the very structure of the auctions for the frequencies that is unsuitable for the future: it would be much better to have three frequency segments, and this should be worth ALSO for 4G and 5G, to be assigned to the Metropolitan and Regional segment. In contrast, 4G and 5G are only national, Wimax is regal, and the Metropolitan segment has hardly received any interest.
This is what allows the telcos to maintain their monopoly power, without the risk of realities emerging "from the field", without any competition on ideas.