How Municipal Wi-Fi Can Reinvent Connectivity and Communications

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By Zia Askari

At a time when telecom operators look towards innovative ways to expand and maximize their reach and at the same time monetize on their network investments, Municipal Wi-Fi or City Wi-Fi is one technology which can bring about a whole new way to enable mass scale connectivity and drive communications.

Municipal or City Wi-Fi Solution is enabling municipalities and communities to bridge the digital divide, facilitate economic development and provide ubiquitous connectivity to its citizens along with multiple revenue generating opportunities for both the Service Providers as well as municipalities.

Wi-Fi-Connectivity

Based on the deployment strategy adopted, new business models can be rolled out enabling new monetization streams creating win-win situation for Service Providers, City municipalities as well as end users. The municipal Wi-Fi can be deployed as Wi-Fi network Managed Services where in network is owned and managed by service providers, earn revenues by offering Wi-Fi Services at nominal rates at public places or free services at public spaces and generate revenue from retail owners, by selling advertisement space, promotions of retail offers & deals etc.

Government earn by renting out infrastructure for Wi-Fi deployment to Service Providers. The deployment can also be in wholesale model wherein the network laid is owned by the city and municipality and internet access is managed by service provider.

By laying down the complete city wide Wi-Fi infrastructure and implementing Municipal Wi-Fi, there are immense monetization opportunities for city municipality, service providers along with an enhanced end user experience.

Service Providers get a good chance to earn by offering location hotspot specific advertisements and the deals and promotions across malls, cafes, hotels, airports, hospitals etc., location directions, promote tourism by advertising places to visit, stay, travel information.  It enables municipality to enhance revenue by providing the infra on lease.

This model enables the government agencies to improve and efficiently offer public services like security, lighting, parking and transportation. The city residents and visitors can also avail the benefits of improved navigation to find local businesses, destinations, etc. while enjoying ‘anytime anywhere’ connectivity with Municipal Wi-Fi offering.

Akshat_Joshi_Elitecore

As per the views expressed by Akshat Joshi, VP – Wi-Fi Product Management, Elitecore Technologies Pvt. Ltd, today there are a lot of cities globally, which are investing in Wi-Fi infrastructure, there is a lot of value going in for this strategy, as with Wi-Fi they are able to cater to the growing data surge being driven by smartphones, tablets and other mobility driven devices.

“With this high level of proliferation of smart devices, consumer data intake is growing and this is where operators need Wi-Fi in order to cater to this growing need of wireless data. Most of this wireless data is generated when users are stationary and indoors. This is the reason why industry experts believe that it is Wi-Fi where most of operator investments need to go in the near future. And operators must prepare themselves to start innovating towards monetizing their Wi-Fi network presence.

In order to achieve better operational efficiencies and even expand on the Municipal Wi-Fi front, operators and government need to have a subscriber driven monetization strategy in place which can help them gain more from their networks and at the same time create more value for their customers as well,” he explains.

 Jan-Sjonell

On the other hand, Jan Sjönell, Managing Director, Asia/Middle East, Aptilo Networks opines that the initiative from India’s BSNL and MTNL to provide affordable backhaul capacity to Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) in return for a revenue share of the provided Wi-Fi service is very promising.

“This will for sure facilitate a quick rollout of Wi-Fi services in India where these two giants have a symbiotic relationship with many smaller WISPs standing for the roll-out of the Wi-Fi infrastructure. When each party does what they do best the result tends to be great,” he explains.

There are a number of ways for the WISP to monetize the Wi-Fi service:

  • They can sell the Wi-Fi capacity to mobile operators to offload the cellular networks.
  • They can sell the Wi-Fi service as an affordable subscription in the local municipality.
  • They can offer ad-hoc Wi-Fi services for non-subscribers through portals.

“Another crucial component for the Wi-Fi rollout in India is access to affordable Wi-Fi devices and Wi-Fi enabled smartphones. This is starting to happen now in a big way, and we are just in the beginning stages of this journey,” Jan Sjönell from Aptilo Networks adds on.

Hotspot 2.0 and the Monetization Opportunity

The main purpose of Hotspot 2.0 is to ensure that the user gets secure and automatic access to the Wi-Fi network and the ultimate goal is to provide a seamless experience just like the one in cellular networks. a user just needs to switch on their device anywhere and then they can immediately connect.

“The first part is here already today, the secure and automatic SIM authentication (EAP-SIM/AKA) and other EAP methods such as EAP-TTLS. Most new Wi-Fi access points have support for Hotspot 2.0 and we can see support in more and more devices as well. But, this will not automatically bring a cellular-like user experience where you just fly on to any available Wi-Fi network wherever you are,” Jan Sjönell from Aptilo Networks explains.

For this to happen we need a critical mass of Hotspot 2.0-enabled networks, devices and, equally important, roaming agreements between service providers with clearinghouses taking care of the settlements between service providers. This will take a few years, but when we are there Hotspot 2.0 will definitely help in the monetization of municipal Wi-Fi.

“One of the pillars of Hotspot 2.0 is SIM authentication. We have had customer deployments using this authentication method even before the Hotspot 2.0 term was invented. What we can see from these installations is that the seamless user login has a great impact on Wi-Fi usage and thus the monetization of the service,” Jan Sjönell from Aptilo Networks explains.

Talking on similar lines, Akshat Joshi from Elitecore Technologies says that Hotspot 2.0 is an approach introduced by Wi-Fi Alliance for public access Wi-Fi to provide secure Access Network Delivery Selection Function (ANDSF) from a list of available Wi-Fi networks.

“The idea is for mobile devices to automatically join a Wi-Fi subscriber service whenever the user enters a Hotspot 2.0 area. This allows operators to provide more bandwidth and services-on-demand to end-users, while also alleviating traffic on their network. This auto network discovery will help users to seamlessly roam across the city with an enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity without any service disruption. This can be a great monetization opportunity enabling upselling of various offers to end users in terms of new plans and policies, video on demand, new offers, promotional deals, advertisements, location updates etc. In return operators can benefit from revenues via advertising promoters, retailers etc. Hotspot 2.0 will offer a seamless continuity of the session and will enable the user automatically discover and connect to the SSIDs while in transit thus taking the customer experience to the next level,” he explains.

Picture Courtesy: www.freedigitalphotos.net


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