By Zia Askari
Especially, with telecom operators looking for ways and means to increase monetization opportunities while catering to the growing data demands from their customers, Wi-Fi is fast gaining significance and climbing the ladder of importance in delivering better RoI for operators and creating the much needed base for a connected world.
There was a time not long ago when Wi-Fi was regarded as a small time technology that was seldom utilized, not anymore! Especially, with an overload of connected devices in the form of laptops, tablets, phablets and smartphones, operators are finding it difficult to cope up with a huge surge in data traffic and also meet the mobility challenge of providing seamless connectivity in public locations such as cafes, stadiums, railway stations or airports – this is where Carrier Grade Wi-Fi is becoming their hope towards better revenue management and optimizing their network resources in a better manner.
Challenges and Opportunities in Wi-Fi
According to Johan Terve, VP Marketing, Aptilo Networks, there are a number of best practices that can be adopted by operators to gain more form Wi-Fi deployments –
1. Use the secure and automatic SIM authentication – huge impact on the business case for offloading.
2. Make sure that you have support for all kinds of Wi-Fi devices.
3. Be smart about where to deploy Wi-Fi. Utilize location analytics from your 3G/4G network and start deploying at locations that handle the majority of the traffic.
4. Calculate ROI based on the full picture as discussed and not only direct cost and direct revenue.
5. Though Wi-Fi has been taken as one of the key strategies amongst operators, there are certain challenges that are hindering Carrier
Wi-Fi market to grow in various geographies due to multiple reasons. The key reason of all includes awareness of Wi-Fi availability at various locations where-in Wi-FI hotspots are deployed. “Besides this, operator dread for the Capex on Wi-Fi infrastructure and the ROI impact it will offer back to them. Apart from above there are many other reasons to be considered such as seamless offload from cellular to Wi-Fi without breaking session continuity is a challenge, accurate Wi-Fi selection, integration with mobile core, whether it actually enables with secured access authentication and regulatory compliance etc. and the biggest of all being how to monetize Wi-Fi beyond offload,” says, Akshat Joshi, AVP – Wi-Fi Product Management, Elitecore Technologies Pvt. Ltd
According to Johan Terve, VP Marketing, Aptilo Networks, as a technology, Wi-Fi is facing challenges such as the issue of status quo. “I would say that the biggest obstacle is the “status quo.” In general there are only three actors that build public Wi-Fi in any extent today, fixed/cable operators, venue owners and mobile operators. If none of them build Wi-Fi in any given market everything will be as it always has been. The mobile operators keep their 30-40% share of the mobile device traffic etc. Everybody is happy except for the users. But as soon as one of the three starts to move by deploying a large Wi-Fi network with extensive coverage, then all of a sudden the dynamics will change. The best way for getting carriers interested in Wi-Fi is if they see someone else potentially eating their lunch,” he adds.
Akshat Joshi from Elitecore, confirms that operators across the globe are deploying Wi-Fi network infrastructure as a complementary strategy to their cellular networks due to multiple rationale it provides including helps in reducing cellular congestion, increase addressable market size, integration with mobile core can help leverage resource investment and many more.
“Operators should try to overcome the myths by incorporating some of the best practices for Wi-Fi. Operators can adopt strategy to leverage best out of Wi-Fi beyond offload, and should go for next generation monetization strategies with new business models and use cases. Operators should opt for a heterogeneous network strategy in the dominance market for small cells, macrocells and LTE and can look into the pain points end users are facing and try to provide enhanced customer experience with innovative offerings which can indirectly help operators to monetize. Operators can opt for a Wi-Fi Solution integrated with Policy and Charging for innovative business case roll out, seamless integration with mobile core helping to reduce capex and gain new revenue streams by partnership based commission model by offering real time Wi-Fi location identification and availability, push notification, ad & promotions model, location analytics, etc. and thus improve business efficiency. This will surely help operators create a winning strategy around Wi-Fi,” he adds on.
According to Vani Manian, Director Pre Sales, Alepo Technologies, some of key challenges faces by operators today in offering carrier Wi-Fi come from issues around monetization, site acquisition, seamless access and security around Wi-Fi.
MONETIZATION : “What I will get in terms of Revenue”
Operators are used to think in terms of “how much revenue can I make with Wi-Fi versus how much can I save?” Many operators are waiting to see what competitors are doing before embarking on a Wi-Fi project.
Getting the right to put an AP in every location is sometimes a bad headache. Site acquisition can be a real pain and discourage the bravest.
Going for a half backed experience won’t work. Access needs to be seamless. Pushing configuration to end customers is a must that some operators have not yet implemented and devices are not always compatible with seamless access.
What’s the customer experience over Wi-Fi? Seamless handover is not yet there, poor Wi-Fi reception can mean slow connection… Devices & networks might need an extra mile of technology to make it happen like GSM: seamless & great in quality.
Is Wi-Fi reliable and secure? With EAP, it is – but end users might still have doubts. Also, how secure is the AP to Internet? How to avoid rogue APs?
Carrier Wi-Fi is relatively new. Operators don’t like to be the first to try it !
Even though there are challenges in terms of propagating Wi-Fi today, the future looks bright, especially when operators have to seriously look at optimizing their network resources and this is where most of Wi-Fi deployments will add value to an operator’s network and enable the connected world opportunity.