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Half of telco operators plan on deploying carrier Wi-Fi

Smart cities, converged services and the internet of things are all driving demand for next generation Wi-Fi, says the Wireless Broadband Alliance

Close to 60% of telecoms operators have firm timelines in place to deploy carrier-grade Wi-Fi networking architectures as they look to better serve projects around smart cities, converged services and the internet of things (IoT), according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), an industry association for next generation Wi-Fi.

WBA’s annual report on the state of the wireless ecosystem was produced by researchers at Maravedis-Rethink and based on a poll of sector companies and operators taken in September 2015. The report found that confidence is growing in carrier-grade wireless products.

Appetite for best effort wireless – networks where no guarantees of service are given – continued to wane, with next-generation carrier-grade hotspots expected to outnumber best effort networks by 2017, with best effort hotspots to be reduced to a legacy of around 10% by the close of the decade.

The WBA said this demonstrated how fast the wireless services landscape was evolving, driven by business imperatives such as the IoT, which are forming a baseline for innovation in the sector.

“These shifts mean the themes of the WBA’s Vision 2020 are equally applicable to all the ecosystem’s stakeholders: Accelerating development of relevant technologies to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape, diversifying in time with the changing face of the Wi-Fi ecosystem and increasing investment in development, testing and deployments to continue the push towards Wi-Fi ubiquity, unlicensed wireless, IoT, 5G and beyond,” said Shrikant Shenwai, WBA CEO.

“This year’s survey has demonstrated a growing momentum in the ecosystem away from talking about the benefits of carrier-grade to realising its potential in high-growth areas such as IoT and smart cities via deployment,” added Caroline Gabriel, research director at Maravedis-Rethink.

“Next generation hotspot and Passpoint technology have been fundamental enablers in the transition to carrier-grade Wi-Fi. As investment increases, the potential returns will grow as new revenue streams develop,” she said.

The WBA’s latest survey also examined the growing use of Wi-Fi as a strategic offering by more and more service providers, including pure-play providers, network aggregators and vertically focused operators.

It said a quarter of the business value of Wi-Fi today relates to cost reduction and improvements in average revenues per user (ARPU).

However, four years out, more companies said they expected to be harnessing Wi-Fi in combination with their own networks to add incremental revenues directly, with big opportunities forecast around multiplay bundles and access to content everywhere.

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