Report: More than half of operators plan to deploy carrier-grade Wi-Fi

Around 57 per cent of operators have "firm timelines" in place for the deployment of carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks, according to a new survey and report by Maravedis-Rethink carried out on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

Carrier-grade Wi-Fi essentially means that operators should have better control over the service experience and quality of Wi-Fi networks. The report noted there is now evidence of a growing shift from "best effort" networks to carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspots as confidence grows in the technology.

At current rates of growth, the report estimates that carrier-grade hotspots will outnumber best effort in the installed base by the end of 2017. By 2020, only a small legacy base of best effort hotspots will remain -- less than 10 per cent of the total -- with all new deployments being carrier-grade or better.

Caroline Gabriel, research director of Maravedis-Rethink, said there is a growing momentum away from just talking about the benefits of carrier-grade to actually realising its potential in high-growth areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities.

"Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) and Passpoint technology have been fundamental enablers in the transition to carrier-grade Wi-Fi, and as investment increases so the potential returns will grow as new revenue streams develop," Gabriel said.

Wi-Fi hotspot software firm Purple WiFi explains that Passpoint is the certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance that says a piece of equipment works with Hotspot 2.0. Hotspot 2.0 is an initiative driven by the Wi-Fi Alliance and is broadly based on the 802.11u standard, while Next Generation Hotspot takes the process beyond the equipment-- covering authentication back to operators, service providers and carriers.

The report also found that an increasing variety of service providers including pure-plays, aggregators, MNOs, MSOs and vertical market operators are using Wi-Fi as a strategic platform.

"In 2015, almost one-quarter of the business value of Wi-Fi relates to reduced costs and overall ARPU improvement, but by 2019 these companies expect to be harnessing Wi-Fi, often in combination with their own networks, to generate incremental revenues directly. The biggest opportunities are seen in smart cities, Wi-Fi First and multiplay bundles including everywhere access to content and applications," the report said.

The report was based on a survey carried out during the third quarter of 2015 with a total of 212 respondents, 38 per cent of which were operators. Other significant respondent groups were Wi-Fi equipment and device vendors (28 per cent) and consultants/integrators (17 per cent). The majority of responses came from North America (40 per cent) and Europe (26 per cent), followed by Asia-Pacific (16 per cent).

For more:
- read the release here
- read the full report here

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