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

Fifty-seven percent of operators have firm timelines for the deployment of carrier-grade Wi-Fi network architecture, and by 2020, 80 percent of survey respondents plan to have deployments in the areas of Internet of Things/M2M, according to research published by the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

That is based on research by Maravedis-Rethink that involved surveying 212 respondents, 38 percent of which were operators. Other groups surveyed include Wi-Fi equipment and device vendors and consultants/integrators. The majority of responses came from North America (40 percent) and Europe (26 percent), followed by Asia-Pacific (16 percent).

The report also shows that more than half of those surveyed already have plans for Wi-Fi in converged services and smart cities.

The survey highlighted that, as confidence grows in carrier-grade Wi-Fi, the shift away from "best effort" networks will continue to gather speed, according to the alliance. At current growth the report estimates that carrier-grade hotspots will outnumber best effort in the installed base by the end of 2017, and by 2020 only a small legacy base of best effort hotspots will remain -- less than 10 percent of the total -- with all new deployments being carrier-grade or better.  

Next Generation Hotspot and Passpoint technology have been fundamental enablers in the transition to carrier-grade Wi-Fi and as investment increases, the potential returns will grow as new revenue streams develop, according to Caroline Gabriel, research director at Maravedis-Rethink.

In short, carrier grade Wi-Fi outlines the requirements for QoS and user experience. As for carriers in North America, they're likely rolling it out for adding capacity, the economic benefits and the ability to get "carrier-grade" equipment from their vendors. Another main driver is the requirement for carrier-grade equipment for services such as Wi-Fi calling, according to Ton Brand, senior marketing direct at the WBA.

Partnerships like the type that Sprint (NYSE: S) and Boingo Wireless worked out earlier this year likely will continue to develop. The survey indicates the main growth for operator networks will come from roaming and wholesale agreements, according to Brand.

The survey was carried out during the third quarter of 2015.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Boingo CEO: Sprint deal is 'tip of the iceberg,' Wi-Fi network traffic up 60%
Sprint makes Wi-Fi the 'fourth layer' of its network with new Boingo deal, small cell push and Wi-Fi router
Operators are embracing Wi-Fi offloading but find solutions still lacking
Hotspot 2.0: Bringing Wi-Fi traffic into the carrier's mobile network

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