"Best-effort WiFi is no longer good enough; mobile operators need carrier-class sophistication," said Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave and carrier WiFi at Infonetics Research.
Next-gen carrier WiFi has evolved to enable operators to deliver the same quality of experience as mobile networks through closer integration with the mobile RAN.
Hotspot 2.0 will go a long way to building the bridge between the technologies from a technical standpoint, but operators are still figuring out how to position WiFi within their broadband offerings and which service models will generate the most revenue.
According to the Infonetics assessment, mobile network offload of data traffic is not enough; WiFi has got to pay for itself -- by becoming a new source of sustainable revenue.
For the WiFi offload and hotspot survey, Infonetics interviewed mobile, incumbent, competitive and cable operators in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, North America and Latin America that operate carrier WiFi networks or plan to do so by year-end.
The latest market study highlights include:
- In a 3-way tie, revenue generation, enhanced throughput and use of unlicensed spectrum are the top drivers for deploying carrier-class WiFi solutions.
- The fastest-growing monetization models for WiFi services are tiered/premium hotspots, managed hotspots and WiFi roaming.
- Hotels, sports and entertainment venues, airports, train stations and retail malls will see significant growth as carrier WiFi deployment locations by 2014.
- Survey respondents intend to rapidly adopt the 802.11ac standard once it becomes commercially available, anticipating that 30 percent of their new WiFi access points will be based on 802.11ac by the end of 2014.
- Cisco is the most widely deployed WiFi equipment vendor among respondent carriers, while Ruckus Wireless leads the list of vendors under evaluation for future purchases.