Operator attitudes toward Wi-Fi continue to shift, report says

There continues to be an increasing shift in attitude toward Wi-Fi, according to survey results published by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) this week. In fact, the largest figure ever seen in an annual survey--56.7 percent of Wi-Fi operators and vendors--said they were more confident about investing in public Wi-Fi than they had been a year ago.

In the 2013 study, that figure was just under 52 percent, and that was up from 43 percent in 2012. The survey was conducted by Maravedis-Rethink.

The WBA interprets that the higher levels of confidence will certainly translate into larger and faster buildouts, with Wi-Fi being deployed in a broad range of venues.

Large venues such as stadiums and shopping malls continue to be among the biggest drivers of traffic growth, followed by travel hubs such as airports and connectivity on board transportation, respondents said.

"Carrier Wi-Fi has experienced a revolution over the past year and is now being embraced by an ever growing number of carriers," said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA, in a press release. "The significant progress in live commercial NGH [Next Generation Hotspot] deployments, and in turn new monetization strategies, provide evidence of major improvements in quality of service, ease of use and revenue generation that the technology brings."

Caroline Gabriel, research director at Maravedis-Rethink, said what stands out from this year's survey is a strong focus on the importance of overall customer experience rather than just speed and convenience. "It is cited numerous times as a key driver for the adoption of Wi-Fi," she said in the release. "WBA initiatives such as global roaming and Next Generation Hotspot are still being recognized as key enablers of the technology."

The survey also found that Wi-Fi roaming will continue to be an important way to extend coverage, especially internationally. In the 2013 survey, 30 percent of the hotspot operators also had roaming deals to supplement their networks, while in 2014, that percentage has risen to just over half.

As for NGN deployments, last year 44 percent of survey respondents expected to have NGN deployed by the end of 2015. By the end of 2016, a further 31 percent of those with active plans for NGH expect to have it deployed. That would indicate uptake of 84 percent by that stage among those players that are already making their plans to deploy. So far, 12 live commercial NGH deployments have been made worldwide.

Now that NGH is a commercial reality, monetization is rising to the top of the agenda, and the most dramatic change from last year is that 35 percent of respondents are implementing Wi-Fi roaming as one of their monetization strategies, i.e., charging for roaming access, or providing tools and platforms to enable this. That is up sharply from just 10 percent in 2013, the release said.

The survey was conducted during the third quarter of 2014 and had a total of 210 respondents. Forty-five percent of them were operators. Other significant respondent groups were Wi-Fi equipment and device vendors, with 25 percent, and consultants/integrators, with 19 percent. The majority of the responses came from North America (39 percent) and Europe (26 percent), followed by Asia-Pacific (19 percent).

For more:
- see the press release
- see this Rethink Wireless article
- see this Mobile World Live article
- download the report here (reg. req.)

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