Survey: 77% of service providers plan to use 'homespots'

New research exploring the transition from "best-effort" to "carrier-grade" Wi-Fi networks shows that service providers realize that "best effort" Wi-Fi is becoming less profitable and that new revenue streams can only be built once a higher quality of experience (QoE) is assured.

That's according to Amdocs-commissioned research conducted by Real Wireless and Rethink Technology Research. It was released during the Small Cells Americas conference in Dallas.

The survey finds that carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspots will grow from 14 percent today to 72 percent of overall Wi-Fi hotspots by 2018. The survey also highlights how critical tools are for carrier-grade network planning and performance management, spanning both cellular and Wi-Fi networks, to enable the move to new Wi-Fi services.

According to the survey, almost all operators--85 percent--plan to invest in carrier-grade Wi-Fi by 2016. Multiple service operators (MSOs) see carrier-grade Wi-Fi providing better positioning in mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deals, supporting quad-play offerings and wireless services, while mobile network operators (MNOs)  plan to use carrier-grade Wi-Fi to broaden their networks and offload radio access network (RAN) traffic, the research shows.

Interestingly, 77 percent of service providers plan to use "homespots," whereby the user agrees to leave the hotspot open for use by passers-by, up from 30 percent today.

That growth is noteworthy as it remains a controversial practice, with not all consumers finding it an easy process to opt out if they don't want to share their hotspot with neighbors. It can also open up the hotspot owner to privacy and security threats of which they may not be aware. Security experts say consumers aren't always aware, for example, that when they leave their home, they're moving over to a quasi-public hotspot that might be more vulnerable.

"Service providers are starting to see Wi-Fi as a strategically important offering that can enhance or damage their reputations and which needs to support a user experience comparable to that of cellular networks," said Oliver Bosshard, managing consultant at Real Wireless, in the release. "Best-effort Wi-Fi networks are not controlled from the operator's core network or operational support systems tools, and the access points often do not support any form of traffic management or prioritization. As a result, operators are unable to monitor or address performance issues such as congestion, meaning they cannot guarantee QoE--properties such as connection speed, latency or prioritization that are all critical to enable the monetization options for Wi-Fi."

By the end of 2016, 61 percent of MSOs' Wi-Fi hotspots and 70 percent of MNOs' will be sourced from third parties to take advantage of shared cost savings and accelerated deployment, up from 45 percent today.

Two-thirds, or 65 percent, of respondents placed the lack of strong network planning and management tools in their top three risk factors for investing in carrier-grade Wi-Fi, with 65 percent stating that their existing tools will not extend well to Wi-Fi without additional investment.

Not coincidentally, Amdocs offers network solutions that allow service providers to maximize network capacity and delivery quality of service based on real-time customer insights.

The research was conducted between August and October 2014, with Wi-Fi managers from 40 service providers in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.

For more:
- see the press release
- see FierceCable's take here
- see this Multichannel News story

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