A new Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) survey reveals that Tier 1 Mobile Operators expect 22% of all additional data capacity added during 2013-2014 to come from Wi-Fi offload. By 2018, Wi-Fi offload is predicted to contribute 20% of additional mobile data capacity plus a further 21% will come from small cells with integrated Wi-Fi.
The WBA noted that this shows how important data offload is to mobile operators, accounting for an average of 20% of data traffic, up to 80% in densely populated areas such as transport hubs and cafes. Within homes and businesses offload levels are 50% to 60%
The report on the Wi-Fi hotspot market, compiled by global research company Maravedis-Rethink, is published today (20 November 2013) by the WBA, the industry association focused on driving the next generation Wi-Fi experience.
The survey also highlighted that 51% of respondents, 56% of those being operators, are more confident about investing in Wi-Fi to supplement cellular than they had been a year earlier. Renewed confidence can be attributed to increased hotspot deployments and more ambitious business plans announced by some carriers, as well as the vast improvements made to Wi-Fi through enhanced roaming agreements and WBA initiatives such as Next Generation Hotspot (NGH).
Maravedis-Rethink forecasts a steady annual increase in hotspots deployed from 5.2m in 2012 to 10.5m in 2018. Of the hotspot owners, 27 respondents have networks of over 1,000 locations and six have more than one million. By contrast, almost 10% of those supporting roaming have access to networks of over one million locations.
Operators are expanding the access they provide rapidly via roaming agreements and as the process becomes simplified and standardised, this trend will continue to accelerate. Monetisation strategies also came up as an important consideration with the most significant being Wi-Fi offload, closely followed by location-based services such as targeted marketing, and enterprise applications
With regards to NGH deployments, 78% of those planning to launch an NGH network will do so by end of 2015. Boingo Wireless recently led the way by launching the world’s first commercial Next Generation Hotspot Wi-Fi network at Chicago O’Hare Airport, and the WBA is currently delivering a live end-to-end NGH experience at its Wi-Fi Global Congress in Beijing this week 18-21 November 2013).
Early trials and deployments like this will provide valuable test beds of real world performance and demonstrate the power of this technology. Over half the respondents stated that the most pressing driver for NGH investment was to increase offload from cellular networks, closely followed by the need to increase customer satisfaction, increase revenues and facilitate seamless roaming.
“Public Wi-Fi is steadily maturing and is now being embraced by an ever growing number of operators. NGH brings significant improvements in terms of quality of service and ease of use, bringing a cellular experience to Wi-Fi,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA. “This research shows an increasingly positive attitude towards public Wi-Fi which is largely thanks to the strength of the ecosystem and the technical and commercial progress to make NGH deployments possible.
“Going forward, we are excited about the building momentum for the technology and the benefits it beings to both end-users and the industry. The focus has to be on continuing efforts to cement NGH as a commercial reality and defining a new ‘carrier grade’ of Wi-Fi that will bring significant benefits to the industry,” said Shenwai.
Caroline Gabriel, research director, Maravedis-Rethink, added: “This year’s survey doesn’t just show major growth ahead for public Wi-Fi deployments, but a strong focus on overall customer experience rather than just speed and convenience. Quality of experience will drive a variety of new business models based on Wi-Fi, and two of the essential enablers are being driven by the WBA – global roaming and Next Generation Hotspot.”
The survey, carried out during Q3 2013, had a total of 197 respondents: 56% of those being operators. Within that group, two-thirds were fixed or mobile operators and one-third were WISPs or pure-play Wi-Fi operators. North America and Asia-Pacific fielded almost 30% of respondents each, followed by Europe on 28%. It is now available to download on the Wireless Broadband Alliance website – http://www.wballiance.com/resource-center/wba-industry-report