Embracing the Wi-Fi Revolution

Wi-Fi is clearly a major piece of network strategy for global CSPs. David Chambers, director of OSS Solution Marketing, Amdocs, explained the cost dynamics, and framed the scope of carrier interest:

“The additional cost of integrating carrier Wi-Fi into small cells is relatively low," Chambers says. "Adding this capability into newly deployed small cells enables greater capacity and brings an extra dimension to the overall solution. Our survey found that many network planners will mandate that Wi-Fi is integrated into new 3G and 4G small cells, with 22 percent of our sample anticipating it will be installed in over half of their total cellsites by 2017.”

New business opportunities

Offloading mobile data to the Wi-Fi realm is clearly a way to save money and manage the mobile data boom, but what other business opportunities are available to CSPs?

In a recent whitepaper, which brands Wi-Fi the “new mobile,” Cisco highlights five new business strategies that monetize service provider Wi-Fi:

  • Offering zero-rated Wi-Fi access via advertising
  • Enabling zero-rated Wi-Fi access through personalized marketing
  • Delivering secured access to cloud storage and resources over Wi-Fi
  • National and International Wi-Fi roaming
  • Enhanced in-store shopping experiences

There are certainly more business opportunities for carrier Wi-Fi in the future, including robotics, telematics, M2M, and business services. An in-depth report released by the Wireless Broadband Alliance in July indicates that: 66 percent of business travelers would pay for faster Wi-Fi, even in the presence of a free option; 34 percent of mobile users would pay for faster Wi-Fi; and 32 percent would pay based on the use of the network.

Further, wired service providers have an uphill battle against wireless service providers in the U.S. Cisco reports that even though most terrestrial broadband providers include free Wi-Fi in their bundles, most people associate free Wi-Fi with a mobile provider. This means mobile service providers already have a head-start in the consumer segment. We already see AT&T aggressively flexing their Wi-Fi muscle, with a variety of Wi-Fi only plans ranging in price from $3.99 single-session passes to $15.99 monthly access.

Nearly ubiquitous Wi-Fi connectivity has even given rise to a new class of smartphone and service provider: the Wi-Fi only crowd. The latest example of this is Republic Wireless, a wireless service provider that offers unlimited everything for $19 per month by relying almost exclusively on Wi-Fi offload.

Wi-Fi is the new mobile

While reporting from Management World in Dublin and Mobile World Congress in Dublin, Pipeline editors made a preponderance of calls and texts--whether in a city street, a crowded bar, or conference center--over Wi-Fi. Yet today, the process is still not nearly wrinkle-free.

In the new network, everyone stands to gain from Wi-Fi: service providers, vendors, and consumers. Service providers will be able to push down their costs and explore new revenue streams by turning to Wi-Fi. As service providers move to rapidly deploy next-gen Wi-Fi hotspots and Wi-Fi-enabled femtocells, infrastructure vendors will see a spike in this business segment. Billing and operations software providers and vendors of policy management solutions will become increasingly relevant to manage the seamless discovery, authentication, security and service experience that must be transparent to the end user; they must help service providers deliver the WBA's NGH standard. And, the end-user stands to benefit from controlled expenses and the same experience, regardless of the access technology.


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