Operators plan massive growth in carrier-grade Wi-Fi

New network planning and management tools critical for enabling monetisation of carrier-grade Wi-Fi, according to new research commissioned by Amdocs

Operators plan massive growth in carrier-grade Wi-Fi

Amdocs, the customer experience solutions provider, unveiled the results of new independent research at Small Cells Americas, which explores the transition from “best-effort” to “carrier-grade” Wi-Fi networks among multiple service operators (MSOs) and mobile network operators (MNOs).

This transition comes in response to new end-user expectations for improved capacity and quality for “everywhere” content, and the need to support new revenue streams.

The Amdocs-commissioned research, conducted by Real Wireless and Rethink Technology Research, reveals plans for massive growth in carrier-grade Wi-Fi, the different strategies operators intend deploying and the technical barriers to be overcome.

According to the research, service providers realise that “best-effort” Wi-Fi is becoming less profitable and that new revenue streams can only be built once a higher quality of experience (QoE) is assured. This higher QoE is necessary for services such as TV everywhere, health monitoring, enterprise voice, online gaming, media streaming and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services.

The survey also highlights the criticality of tools for carrier-grade network planning and performance management, spanning both cellular and Wi-Fi networks, to enable the leap to new Wi-Fi services. Key findings include:

Carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspots will grow from 14% today to 72% of overall Wi-Fi hotspots by 2018.

As part of their Wi-Fi network strategy to enable Wi-Fi coverage on the move, by 2016, 77% of service providers plan to use “homespots” (where the user agrees to leave the hotspot open for use by passers-by), growing from 30% today.

Almost all operators (85%) plan to invest in carrier-grade Wi-Fi by 2016. MSOs see carrier-grade Wi-Fi providing better positioning in mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deals, supporting quad-play offerings and wireless services, while MNOs plan to use carrier-grade Wi-Fi broaden their networks and offload radio access network (RAN) traffic.

By the end of 2016, 61% of MSO’s Wi-Fi hotspots, and 70% of MNOs’, will be sourced from third parties to take advantage of shared cost savings and accelerated deployment, up from 45% in today

Two-thirds (65%) of respondents placed the lack of strong network planning and management tools in their top three risk factors for investing in carrier-grade Wi-Fi, with 65% stating that their existing tools will not extend well to Wi-Fi without additional investment.

“Service providers are starting to see Wi-Fi as a strategically important offering that can enhance or damage their reputations and which needs to support a user experience comparable to that of cellular networks,” said Oliver Bosshard, Managing Consultant at Real Wireless.

“Best-effort Wi-Fi networks are not controlled from the operator’s core network or operational support systems tools, and the access points often do not support any form of traffic management or prioritisation.

“As a result, operators are unable to monitor or address performance issues such as congestion, meaning they cannot guarantee QoE - properties such as connection speed, latency or prioritisation that are all critical to enable the monetisation options for Wi-F,” said Bosshard.

Rebecca Prudhomme, vice president for product and solutions marketing at Amdocs, commented: “Because quality of experience is essential to current and future network monetisation strategies, operators need to have the right planning and management tools in place.

“These are areas that are critical to the business case – to ensure optimal and cost-efficient roll outs, and to provide detailed analysis of network behaviour and customer usage, which can feed into improved quality of experience.

“Amdocs network solutions allow service providers to maximise network capacity and deliver quality of service based on real-time customer insights while enabling greater cost-efficiency.”

The research was conducted between August and October 2014, with Wi-Fi managers from 40 service providers in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.

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