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Mobile Operators Use Wi-Fi Hotspots for Net Offload

Mobile service providers have either a big challenge, or a big opportunity -- depending on your point of view. As a result of introducing new smartphones with broadband internet access offerings and promoting them vigorously, they're experiencing a variety of network performance issues.

Some are addressing the issue with reactive bandwidth cap mandates or throttling data throughput, while others are proactively investing in new infrastructure to offload the growing mobile data traffic.

Infonetics Research released excerpts from its latest market study report entitled "Carrier WiFi Offload and Hotspot Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey." Mobile operators now appear to be firmly behind carrier WiFi as a key solution for the mobile offload requirement -- even as they continue to investigate other small cell possibilities.

"Our survey shows that whilst data offload is the current priority, in coming years operators will want to see a closer integration of WiFi with the mobile network so that offload becomes more intelligent, automated, and seamless. They want to utilize WiFi not only to augment mobile services, but to enhance the network itself by becoming an integrated part of the mobile network," says Richard Webb directing analyst at Infonetics Research.

Infonetics survey and market study highlights include:
  • Two-thirds of the service providers that Infonetics interviewed have already deployed 20,000 to over 150,000 WiFi access points (APs) in public spaces.
  • Street coverage is seen as one of the areas of greatest deficit for WiFi coverage; by 2013, the percentage of service providers planning to deploy WiFi for street coverage jumps to 79 percent.
  • Complementing the mobile data service by enhancing throughput is currently the top deployment driver for carrier WiFi, followed by the scarcity of licensed spectrum.
  • Nearly all respondent carriers plan to increase the number of access points deployed by 2013, so Infonetics expects significant carrier WiFi deployment over the coming year.
  • Smartphones and tablets are named by mobile operators as the top mobile broadband devices driving their 2013 deployments of public WiFi networks.

For its Carrier WiFi Offload and Hotspot Strategies survey, Infonetics interviewed 24 mobile, incumbent, and competitive operators in Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa that operate a public WiFi network used for offloading cellular networks, or who plan to by year-end.

The study provides insight into service provider WiFi offload deployment plans and drivers, ratings of WiFi product features, and mobile offload and WiFi service strategies. Together the survey respondents represent 35 percent of the world's telecom carrier revenue and 36 percent of the world's telecom capex (capital expenditures).

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