Global trends in public WiFi: WBA infographic and report

Global trends in public WiFi: WBA infographic and report
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The vision of WBA chairman JR Wilson is evolving the agenda with his personal mantra ‘everything standardised, everything connected’.

He suggests the whole industry is now aligning with the same unity of debate around three pillars: seamlessness, security and interoperability.

To establish this vision the urgent challenges he highlights are:

  • Stronger participation from the device community
  • A standardised framework so that all kinds of companies can plug in
  • A move to Next Generation Hotspot yet still manage legacy users

Wilson says that there is certainly an increase in awareness in the potential of public WiFi and that the significant growth in uptake will become another tool to optimise a network’s reach and capacity.

Public WiFi moves to the heart of carrier strategies

Companies are using everything in their power to create ubiquity for mobile broadband and until now WiFi has been an underused asset.

He predicts that in one year’s time:

“The biggest change will be one that people won’t even realize has happened – a whole new customer experience enabled by ubiquitous mobile broadband access.”

Key findings of the report:

Key features of the report tell us that operators are using WiFi as a central part of their broader strategy:

Emphasis on customer experience and value has been markedly strengthened

The survey showed that improving customer experience to attract and retain customers is the most important reason to adopt a carrier WiFi strategy. This change in perception is driven by technologies to enable public WiFi to be integrated more seamlessly with other networks.

A sharp rise in confidence in investing in public WiFi

The public WiFi ecosystem has clearly expanded over the last year. Maravedis – Rethink surveyed WiFi ecosystem players and found that optimism had increased around public WiFi. More than half were more confident about investing (52% report being more confident in investing in WiFi than they were a year before) and the majority were aware of Next Generation Hotspot initiatives. This contributes to the creation of a rich and integrated public WiFi platform which can support a wide range of business models.

The drive for investment and increased confidence

The data traffic explosion is the most obvious drive for an increase in investment in public WiFi. However there are other clear reasons evolving. The top three reasons to invest were reported as:

1) Improved user experience
2) Subscriber retention
3) Cost reduction

Other drives include:

  • Generation of revenue for hotspot owners
  • Savings for Mobile Network Operators
  • Maturing standards
  • A wider business case range
  • Increased strategic interest of fixed and mobile carriers

This creates new demands on operators, including how to support the capacity of traffic and increase in mobile device use, how to meet increasing customer expectations and improve quality of service such as increased speed.

For mobile operators there is a particular need to focus on public WiFi

MNOs predicted 22% of their capacity added last year to have come from public WiFi and by 2018 75% of small cells will have integrated WiFi. WiFi has moved to be a significant opportunity to meet their customers demands with a cost effective plus high quality solution.

Thus the increase in confidence for using WiFi as a central component of the carrier network and business case is clearly seen in the report.

The main barrier to deploying carrier WiFi was reported as being uncertainty about the business model (61.8% said ‘clarity of business model’) rather than any technology issues.

The deployment of hotspots will intensify

The total installation will reach over 55m in 2018. This includes homespots, which are residential access points that will have some left over capacity for the community (likely to reach more than 100m by end of 2018).

The main areas of growth

Shopping malls and stadiums are predicted to be the main area of a growth in demand for WiFi technologies.

Monetisation strategies

Winning monetisation strategies in the short term are WiFi data offload (which remains the most important), location based services, target marketing and enterprise.

Reasons for adding public WiFi capabilities

The most important development over the last year or so has been a clear expansion beyond offload strategies and the move towards integration of WiFI into the centre of the network and business model.

There has been an increasing emphasis in the importance of both quality of experience (with quality of connection having the greatest influence) and the greatest reason for adding public WiFi capabilities is to improve overall customer experience. 91% of the respondents said that customer experience was either very important (57%) or important (a further 34%). Other reasons included generation of new revenue streams, improving indoor coverage, roaming and security.

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