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Exploring the Advanced Features of Wi-Fi Hotspots

With smartphone and media tablet usage continuing to grow exponentially, broadband service provider deployed Wi-Fi networks are playing an increasing role in keeping users connected while on the go.

A new market study indicates that advanced features such as seamless authentication, on-site enrollment of additional devices, and Wi-Fi roaming present mobile network operators with compelling opportunities to drive business value.

The survey, conducted among more than 2000 users of both smartphones and tablets in France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, illustrates the hunger among users for a more seamless experience in public Wi-Fi networks.

Findings from the recent market study include:
  • Eighty-four percent of respondents are interested in having seamless discovery and authentication in hotspots.
  • Seventy-four percent are willing to switch service providers in order to gain access to these advanced features.
  • Ninety-one percent are likely to stay with their current service provider if they offered a service which incorporated these features.

The carrier Wi-Fi opportunity extends well beyond smartphones. Tablet usage in homes and on public Wi-Fi networks is on the rise and approaching rates similar to those of smartphone usage. According to the study, more than one-third of users connect tablets to public Wi-Fi networks today and fifty-seven percent reported that they expect to connect their tablets via hotspot networks three years from now.

The next release of Passpoint, planned for 2014, adds functionality to enable non-SIM device enrollment on-the-spot, extending user subscriptions to additional devices such as tablets, and enabling the enrollment of new subscribers.

Seamless Wi-Fi roaming is currently in trials among numerous service providers worldwide, and it presents another upside revenue opportunity. Ninety-two percent of the survey respondents connect either a tablet or smartphone while traveling, leveraging a combination of cellular and Wi-Fi networks both within and outside their home service provider's control.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents stated they would be willing to pay more for a Wi-Fi roaming offering from their service provider, and eighty percent agreed with the statement "I wish my service provider could be with me when I travel."

"With innovations coming from the industry, the opportunity for advanced Wi-Fi to drive business value for service providers is clear," said Mike Roberts, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

Passpoint-certified equipment and inter-provider Wi-Fi roaming enable fixed and mobile providers to add new Wi-Fi-only subscribers, expand share of wallet among existing subscribers, and deliver a roaming experience that exceeds subscriber expectations.

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