Since its birth in 1985, the Wi-Fi industry has grown exponentially. Nowadays, Wi-Fi’s use is ubiquitous, and there are staggering predictions about the number of connected devices that will soon be in use. According to ABI Research, by 2020 there will be 41 billion active wireless connected devices.
The role of Wi-Fi is increasingly being extended, moving away from being a simple method of connectivity to playing a strategic role as a support for communications between a wide range of devices. In this context, it’s clear to me that Wi-Fi has to be an integrated and customer-centric technology.
The Wi-Fi revolution is already well underway, and there are seven key points that will define its future in coming years, the first of which is Wi-Fi offloading.
Cisco expects a sevenfold increase in the growth of mobile data traffic by 2021, and more than 60% of traffic will be offloaded this year via Wi-Fi networks. This boom is being fuelled by video, and with no signs of slowing down, WiFi offloading will increase dramatically in order to cope with this jump in traffic.
There is already a significant convergence of cellular and WiFi, but soon this will take a important step further as the number of carrier-grade hotspots will outnumber other access points installed.
Driven by carrier Wi-Fi managed hotspots, the number of hotspots will grow exponentially: Today there are close to 100M hotspots globally, and Cisco expects more than 500M by 2021.
Nowadays people demand continuous connectivity, and there is no exception when it comes to busy public locations such as arenas, malls, and airports. But only a small 36% of users are satisfied with their indoor cellular coverage. Current building regulations restrict cellular coverage from penetrating the walls and reaching end users indoors.
But there is a solution: Wi-Fi being leveraged for neutral host deployments in highly frequented spaces on a frequent basis. Wi-Fi infrastructure already exists in the majority of these locations, so it will be a win-win solution for all involved parties.
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Host providers, mobile operators, and venue owners can all take advantage of the cost savings and the efficiency of sharing infrastructure. Wi-Fi also enables a wide variety of value-added services, such as proximity marketing, indoor positioning, advertising, and analytics.
Another key trend that will impact the WiFi ecosystem is the separation of Wi-Fi software from hardware functions, and provisioning from a centralised management plane.
Network functions virtualisation will lead to many advantages, the most sought-after of which is service agility, which will enable the quick commissioning and decommissioning of new services.
There has already been significant discussion of IoT in the industry, but less focus has been placed on the important role WiFi will play. According to the WBA, during the last year more than 85% of companies have increased the priority level of IoT on their roadmap, and Wi-Fi will be essential for IoT connectivity, as the technology of choice for any higher bandwidth requirements.
And with IoT comes the connected home. A significant proportion of consumers are dissatisfied with the quality of their WiFi connection at home, which will cause significant problems when it comes to connectivity. ISPs are challenged to address the issues effectively or new players will win in that field: Home Wi-Fi will be the basic battleground for the connected home.
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People have already seen players such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook entering the Wi-Fi space, but the Wi-Fi disruption by OTT players has only just begun. It is clear that the ecosystem as we know it won’t be around for long.
Through different approaches, these new players intend to improve overall Wi-Fi usability, use Wi-Fi to bring internet to the next billion people, and offer Wi-Fi solutions with a customer centric and data analytics-driven approach.
With these trends in mind, communications service providers (CSPs) should take advantage of WiFi, and the unique opportunity the technology provides them with to offer better services and experience to customers while reducing churn, increasing loyalty, and optimising costs through offloading.
Sourced by Alex Puregger, CEO, Fon
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