As today’s telecom operators are feeling the heat of data deluge, it is getting difficult for them to handle and monetize on data. In this scenario, Wi-Fi presents unique opportunities that can drive monetization for operators to the next level.
In addition to offloading cellular users on Wi-fi networks, operators can also identify new monetization opportunities that Wi-fi could enable and build unique business cases around those untapped and innovative opportunities. Throwing more light on the current trends in the Wi-Fi space, Dr. Ishwar Parulkar, Cisco Distinguished Engineer talks about how Cisco is positioning its Wi-Fi solutions and what are some of the best practices that can be followed here in India.
How does Cisco look at the Carrier Wi-fi market today? What are some of the innovations that are likely to come from Cisco in this segment?
Cisco research shows that by 2016, more than 50% of IP traffic will be carried over Wi-fi networks. We believe that WiFi will become an increasingly critical part of operators’ future network plans with use cases ranging from offloading cellular traffic to innovative services that they can monetize on.
Some of the innovations coming from Cisco are multi-mode (unlicensed and licensed band) indoor small cells, coupled with technologies to enable seamless connectivity, network optimization using SON algorithms and network analytics that create new monetization opportunities. The fact that Cisco has an end-to-end architecture that includes Wi-fi/3G/LTE access points, the access layer, the mobile packet core, analytics engines and policy servers, is the source of several of our innovations in this space.
Where is Carrier WiFi being deployed today? What are the untapped opportunities in this space?
Carrier Wi-fi is almost universally deployed in public spots like airports. We also see them as a popular means of providing one-time connectivity at large events like conventions, trade shows and sports and entertainment events.
While there are already few cases of deployments in dense metro areas, such as shopping malls and large commercial buildings with leased office spaces, these are still largely untapped across the world. With the combination of 3G/LTE with Wi-fi in small cells and the right bundling plans, there will be opportunities for carriers in some areas that have been traditionally owned and managed by enterprise IT.
Please share some of the best practices that operators can incorporate in order to create winning strategies around Wifi?
Operators need to have a long term strategy of meeting the exponential traffic demand from users by utilizing a combination of Wi-fi and 3G/LTE. Besides just offloading cellular users to Wi-fi, operators need to identify new monetization opportunities that Wi-fi could enable and build business models around those.
Offering VAS and applications such as hosted email, bundling with mobile broadband subscription and tiered hotspots are a few examples. Location and context-based analytics from Wi-Fi usage in public spots such as malls and airports and sports /entertainment events can be a big source of B2B2C models for operators. In terms of operational aspects, site choice and planning is critical to control costs of maintenance and reduce probabilities of failures to make Wi-fi a cost-effective proposition.
How important is WiFi for Cisco today? What are your expectations from this segment?
Cisco is a leader in the Wi-fi market, and adoption of Wi-fi – both by enterprises and carriers – is increasing rapidly. Cisco expects this segment to be one of the key drivers of growth for the company and the industry.
We see convergence of cellular, Wi-fi and wired networks which will drive better utilisation of network resources, new monetization opportunities for operators and seamless connected experiences for users.
Please share some of the challenges that are hindering the carrier wifi market in various geographies?
Even though Wi-fi is simple to deploy, the lack of integration between Wi-fi network management and existing IT systems can be a challenge. If VAS over Wi-fi is the strategy a carrier wants to adopt, SLAs are critical and they require good management of the overall access infrastructure.
Cisco is solving these challenges through their unified access and end-to-end mobility architectures. In some geographies, hotspots have a multitude of vendors and technologies – private Wi-fi owners, free hotspot providers, fixed operators, etc. – so co-existence with all these stakeholders from a technology as well as a business arbitrage is challenging to deliver satisfactory experience to users.