By Zia Askari
As telecom operators look for better data monetization models, with unique business opportunities rising from analytics, roaming, advertising etc, Carrier Grade Wi-Fi can help operators ‘Live the Data Dream’ in a better manner.
Today almost all the telecom operators are looking forward to strengthening their revenue generation streams and as an access technology intertwining 2G, 3G and 4G-LTE technologies in togetherness, carrier grade Wi-Fi deployment holds tremendous potential for operators to realize the full potential of data driven services at the end customer level.
With the growing market demand and evolution of Wi-Fi technology, Carrier Wi-Fi market has taken an accelerated pace among operators. Fixed operators consider Carrier Wi-Fi as a dominant technology to expand coverage beyond home and enterprise, and to enhance subscriber loyalty by offering highly valued Wi-Fi access in public venues.
As per the views of Rabih Itani, Technical Manager, Service Providers at Aruba Networks, Middle East & Turkey, as wireless broadband usage keeps growing by leaps and bounds, Aruba believes that Wi-Fi will play an increasingly important role in carriers growth strategies.
“Wi-Fi is the most widely used wireless broadband technology today, operates in license free bands, has plenty of spectrum and with the advent of 802.11ac and Hotspot 2.0 (WFA PassPoint) it merits serious consideration by carriers not just as an offload solution but also as a means to drive additional monetization opportunities. Currently many leading carriers have a Wi-Fi footprint but most (with few notable exceptions) are deployed in an unmanaged, ad hoc fashion. Very few are deriving business benefits by not having a strategy to truly integrate Wi-Fi as part of their network and also by not looking at other business opportunities with carrier class W-Fi. Aruba believes that carriers can drive significant benefits by implementing strategies that include intelligent offload to secure (and integrated) Wi-Fi networks, dynamic network selection, unified access policy /enforcement functions and delivering value add business services over managed Wi-Fi networks,” he adds on.
Innovations from Aruba
Aruba’s innovations in this important market segment will be focused on highly reliable RF performance (self-organizing network (SON) like functions), security (including deep application visibility, intelligent traffic forwarding to packet core, etc.), dynamic application performance management and enabling intelligent network selection. In addition, Aruba will continue to focus on developing (and enhancing) value add solutions including location based services and network analytics which can carriers can leverage to deliver more value to business customers.
Speaking on the importance of Wi-Fi in today’s scenario, Akshat Joshi, AVP – Wi-Fi Product Management, Elitecore Technologies Pvt. Ltd says that, “Mobile operators are expanding Wi-Fi’s role, increasingly adopting it as a mature radio access network (RAN) technology that is an ideal complement to their macro-cell and small-cell networks. With such an adoption, Elitecore has various new innovative offerings for Carrier Wi-Fi market,” he adds on.
Innovations from Elitecore
Elitecore Wi-Fi SMP offers an empowering strategy with Manageability for high speed low cost Wi-Fi networks through pre-integrated SMP, enables network optimization by facilitating to extend existing ecosystem to easily integrate with modular SMP, varied business models and use cases lets operator monetize Wi-Fi and hence improve customer experience.
It also enables Service differentiation with innovative modules like Legal Intercept, Subscriber Analytics, Policy Control and Business Intelligence for Wi-Fi etc.
According to Vani Manian, Director Pre Sales, Alepo Technologies, the importance of Wi-Fi is growing day by day and almost every operator is embarking on a Wi-Fi project.
“In a single country, one operator may already have carrier Wi-Fi, while others might still be in PoC stage. Eventually, Wi-Fi is going to be ubiquitous. The Wi-Fi ecosystem is still in early stages and there are great opportunities for MNOs to make full use of Wi-Fi infrastructure and come up with unique offerings,” she adds on.
Some of the opportunities that operators can look for besides typical data offload are –
1. Offer Wi-Fi as complementary VAS service for non-SIM equipped devices (tablets, laptops)
2. Offer content services over Wi-Fi including sponsored access
3. Offer Wi-Fi as wholesale service to other providers but also in roaming scenario
4. Monetize through revenue sharing with location owners based on location based portals/charging
5. Monetize through localized advertisements
Innovations from Alepo
Alepo’s unique positioning stems from years of experience in bridging between fixed broadband and mobile. Alepo’s Wi-Fi platform is integrated as an adjunct to the mobile platforms, and all features available on the mobile network are made available in the Wi-Fi network. For example, mobile vouchers can be used to purchase Wi-Fi sessions, mobile credit can be deducted from the IN or OCS in real time through quota charging and much more.
Alepo is also working on supporting great protocols such as ANDSF and Hotspot 2.0 that will create a seamless handover between networks and managed interface for handover.
Key Geographies for Growth of Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is growing at an exponential pace. According to market trends analysis from Gartner (“Small Cell Deployment Strategies and Real-Time Analytics”), carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspot locations are increasing, and small cells, which are vital to effective 3G data offload, are expected to capture 26 percent of smart device traffic by 2018. This gives some indication as to how significant Wi-Fi is in reducing the data pressure on the 3G and 4G networks.
Initially driven by developed regions, mobile wireless data is now growing at a faster pace in emerging regions, where for many their first and only connected devices are wireless. “Carrier Wi-Fi market has an upscale in the markets such as South East Asia, Middle East and Africa, APAC, Latin America where-in operators are keenly adopting Wi-Fi as a parallel access technology along with 3G/4G/LTE and deploying Wi-Fi networks,” Akshat Joshi from Elitecore adds on.
Untapped Opportunities in Wi-Fi
Carrier Wi-Fi expands the reach beyond home and office to public spaces, such as hotspots at various locations be it cafes, universities, malls, stadiums and airports etc. Operators across the globe are widely adopting Wi-Fi as a strategy beyond offload, and implementing to deliver varied business models such as Residential, Enterprises, Location specific on event services, Hospitality etc.
“With the immense growth of data traffic, smart devices adoption, to tackle the network congestion, operators are embracing Wi-Fi as one of the key strategies in their deployments. With the Wi-Fi networks laid, operators are also keen on leveraging their existing network infrastructure and are continuously focusing on the untapped opportunities in Wi-Fi beyond offload which includes providing smooth and intelligent offloading, seamless and secure Wi-Fi availability etc. Operators now a day’s focus on identifying varied monetization opportunities from Wi-Fi. There are lots of unique opportunities where operators can monetize through various innovative Wi-Fi models such as partnership, roaming, advertising & analytics etc. and thus enhance customer experience. Also with the LTE booming in, it is very important for operators to have 3GPP Wi-Fi Access supporting seamless integration with existing IT & mobile core and support for LTE- Wi-Fi interworking,” Akshat Joshi from Elitecore explains.
The Road Ahead
With clear benefits coming from Wi-Fi implementation, operators are keenly looking at this technology to increase revenue streams coming from data and also do more with their existing network investments. Moving forward, Carrier Grade Wi-Fi is set to make its mark in the telecoms domain.