With a number of telecom operators vying to optimize their network infrastructure, carrier-grade Wi-Fi has emerged as a great technology of choice that can drive communication service providers towards better utilization of their resources and at the same time, be innovative towards data delivery for their customers. As a result, the whole of year 2014 may well be seen, as a major turning point for carrier-grade Wi-Fi adoption, and all the innovative business models which are helping operators to better engage with their customers. Delivering unique access capabilities in the hands of operators, Wi-Fi is now getting fully embedded with other networks such as 3G, 4G and even WiMAX with the help of future ready advances like Passpoint and Next Generation Hotspot 2.0. Additionally, Wi-Fi is becoming a force to reckon when it comes to new age segments like Internet of Things, where Wi-Fi is leading the way for new business cases and revenue models for the CSPs. The whole segment of Carrier-Grade Wi-Fi got a big boost by the adoption of new standards like 802.11ac and its coverage, considerably increased with the help of the roll-out of ‘Public Wi-Fi hotspots’. Moving forward there are a number of operators such as Singapore, Singtel or Australia’s Telstra which are actively looking at ways to seamlessly integrate Wi-Fi into their future network rollout strategies. What are the key drivers for Carrier Wi-Fi? As more and more operators realise that they are living in a data-intensive world where their customers are looking for handling their data access requirement in innovative ways – this is where Carrier-Grade Wi-Fi becomes very important. When it comes to carrier-grade deployments, the primary drivers are security and a seamless user experience at the end user level. Secondly, with carrier-grade Wi-Fi, operators get seamless integration with their core network, which allows carriers to make the best use of their existing network infrastructure incorporating intelligent network selection features. Whether it is next generation small cell deployment or introduction of HetNets in a network, Wi-Fi is playing an important role today and there has been a significant shift to deploy carrier-grade Wi-Fi by a number of global operators, which can support assured quality of service for their customers. Also quite interestingly, Wi-Fi is fast becoming a strategic tool for mobile operators, fixed line operators and of course for pure-play Wi-Fi network players to catapult themselves towards profitability. On the technology side, there have been a lot of developments to make carrier-grade Wi-Fi more robust, secure and reliable, this includes introduction of new standards and an ever increasing number of devices which support dual-band and 2×2 MIMO technologies. However, there are still challenges which remain to be addressed. While there are a number of issues related with security, seamless connectivity etc. that have been addressed, operators still need to clearly identify the business models around Wi-Fi while at the same time considerably improve upon their QoS and reliability factor. The global carrier-grade Wi-Fi landscape has been transformed by some of the following developments –
- New age operators are investing heavily on carrier-grade Wi-Fi, capable of supporting QoS and offering a variety of service capabilities including cloud based Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi calling, integration to social media and monetizing from Free Wi-Fi
- There is also this shift in the way Wi-Fi Hotspots are being owned and managed now. From a mobile, cable and telco owned operation of Wi-Fi hotspots, it is now fast moving towards – a venue and brand-owned hotspots scenario enabling High density Wi-Fi
- Wi-Fi is also getting seamlessly integrated into their 3G, 4G networks and becoming coherent with cablecos and small cells as well
- Today there is this fast emergence of Public Wi-Fi – where broadband delivery and consumer engagement amongst masses can be addressed at low cost.