It is important that telecom operators consider WiFi as an integrated technology

WiFi has a crucial role to play in the face of the explosion of data usage, as it will carry most of this traffic.

Data traffic is expected to grow sevenfold by 2021, according to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) report, and will soon reach a dizzying 49 exabytes. This trend is being driven by a variety of factors, including the continued increase in the number of smartphone users, widespread use of mobile applications, network speed improvements, massive mobile video consumption, and Internet of Things. Soon, more people will be using mobile phones (5.5 billion) than bank accounts (5.4 billion), running water supplies (5.3 billion), or lines of fixed telephony (2.9 billion).

WiFi has a crucial role to play in the face of this explosion of data usage, as it will carry most of this traffic. As cellular networks become increasingly congested, Cisco predicts that as much as half of all IP traffic will be carried over WiFi networks by 2021. Furthermore, more than 60 per cent of global mobile data traffic will be offloaded over WiFi networks this year, according to Juniper Research's "Mobile Data Offload & Onload" report, which recognises Fon as an Established Leader among vendors of mobile offloading solutions.

This appetite for data has driven many operators to start offering unlimited packages to their customers, a move which has decreased their ARPU. Given that telecoms reached their revenue peak some time ago, they need to find new ways to meet this connectivity demand cost-effectively. By considering alternative revenue sources, such as building out converged networks, they can offset mounting network costs. 

WiFi: an integrated technology

In the face of all the challenges within the sector, operators must begin to consider WiFi as an integrated technology if they haven’t already done so. Not only could this lead to high cost savings and new sources of monetisation. But WiFi also improves the connectivity experience for end-users through increased coverage. This is particularly relevant if we consider WiFi Calling, a use case through which operators can enable voice over WiFi networks (VoWiFi). Another example is WiFi On the go, with which Communications Service Providers (CSPs) can deliver highly demanded connectivity beyond residential limitations.

All these benefits translate into a truly differential offer for CSPs and, in many cases, an increase in revenue. So there really is a strong argument for them to be more strategic about how to use WiFi.

Fon: leaders in carrier-WiFi solutions

It is important to highlight that we are at a point of inflection within the industry, as carrier-grade hotspots will shortly outnumber “best-effort” access points installed. This will be one of the main drivers of growth in the industry over the next few years, so managed WiFi is going to be a necessity. 

Conscious of this reality, at Fon we have optimised our Wifi Service Management Solution with CSPs in mind, covering all aspects of WiFi delivery in one end-to-end solution. Fon’s WiFi Service Management Platform (WSMP) enables operators to use WiFi as an integrated technology within the cellular core. Therefore, our solution enables Communication Service Providers to deliver WiFi services to subscribers and manage them just like cellular and fixed services, complementing existing access networks, and providing a holistic proposition.

Our strong AAA system (Authentication, Authorisation, and Accounting) permits multiple ways of authentication and our connectivity App offers a frictionless experience between WiFi and cellular. The possibility of integration with the cellular core allows operators to maintain visibility of their subscribers’ consumption (video, social media, games) which would otherwise be invisible.

Fon offers a tailored WiFi service rather than a basic off-the-shelf product, and our team of experts can provide assistance with any aspects of integrating Fon’s Solution into operational framework. Our significant experience in deploying WiFi networks ensures fast and scalable deployment, within a matter of hours or days, rather than weeks or months. 

No matter who operators are trying to target (consumers, businesses, subscribers, nonsubscribers) or the focus of their business goals (new revenue sources, strategic partnerships, lead generation), Fon brings CSPs a flexible and powerful solution to fulfill all their needs. We understand that deploying WiFi-based products must result in defined value for our clients. Both operational benefits and the delivery of innovative WiFi services to customers will drive this value – and we make that happen. With Fon’s WiFi solutions, CSPs can offer WiFi services to clients through multiple use cases. 

Quality of experience (QoE)

Whether on cellular or WiFi, customers want seamless connectivity at the best price, and expect a good quality of experience no matter what. In fact, increasingly they expect seamless connectivity, but at present, customer experience still leaves a lot to be desired so carriers need to respond by implementing consistent QoE mechanisms across networks.

For this reason we have designed Fon’s Enhanced Connectivity Solution which will enable CSPs to provide and always-best-connected experience to subscribers. An optional solution, it carries out quality and performance assessments of WiFi and cellular networks within the proximity, and uses advanced algorithms for connecting users to the most suitable network based on performance as well as end-user or business preferences, and movement patterns and network density.

Internet of Things (IoT)

WiFi is already one of the most prolific technologies available, with more than 8 billion WiFi-enabled devices in use around the world. But Qualcomm estimates that the average number of WiFi connected devices per four-person household will grow from 8 to 50 by 2020. As we already know, the IoT is a key driver behind the explosion in mobile data traffic, but it also presents a significant opportunity for WiFi which will be the dominant access technology to support implementation. 

Separate to the significant benefits that integrated WiFi can bring, from the perspective of carriers, IoT deployments are also likely to provide new monetisation opportunities. So it isn’t surprising that approximately 60 per cent of operators have already deployed or planned to develop strategies in IoT by the end of 2017.

Again, Fon’s solutions can support operators in ensuring the best connectivity experience for all of these connected devices. But furthermore, we can grant operators access to the Fon Network, enabling them to provide their customers reliable with connectivity to more than 20 million WiFi hotspots worldwide.

Alex Puregger, CEO at Fon
Image Credit: Chris Oakley / Flickr