Mobile operators wasting billions through shambolic Wi-Fi management – report

A lack of Wi-Fi management means that mobile network operators (MNOs) are wasting precious capacity resources, says a new study. It quantifies the collective global opportunity cost to MNOs at $18 billion.

As Wi-Fi becomes an increasingly critical resource for off-leading traffic from cellular networks, it’s turning into an expensive weak link, according to Xcellair. The MNOs must tackle the lack of standards for spectrum, interference and a lack of attention to detail over radio resource management, it warned.

Currently, the Wi-Fi networks are not designed to be fully efficient, with no cell discipline and a lack of thought towards integrating multiple technologies. The jarring effect of clashing cell types and technologies means that the Wi-Fi spectrum is damagingly inefficient, with a potentially fatal effect on the user experience. Mobile traffic hops from a well-ordered cellular network to a ‘wild west’ Wi-Fi with no rules, where standards, cell types and technologies frequently clash.

In one exercise XCellAir analysed 250 live Wi-Fi access points around its offices in Montreal, Canada. By modelling common urban scenarios in which public Wi-Fi is in everyday use, it found that 92 per cent of access points do not adjust their operating frequency, no matter how badly performance is degraded by interference.

On average, two channels worth of bandwidth is unused at any given time, despite congestion and interference, it discovered. Each channel equates to 50MBps of idle bandwidth totalling 100MBps unused. This sample set of 250 Wi-Fi access points around Montreal wasted capacity that could ideally be monetised by streaming 25 High definition or more than 3000 high definition voice calls.

Taking the example of a typical New York City operator with a 25 per cent market share, the report quantified the subsequent operational overspend and lost revenue at $374 million over five years. When scaled to the top ten financial centres across the globe, the opportunity cost for all operators equates to $17.9bn over five years, it claims.

“It is critical that Wi-Fi does not become the weak link but at the moment Wi-Fi is seen a second-class network that customers are stuck with when data demand is high,” according to XCellAir CTO Narayan Menon, “It’s important that operators don’t see unlicensed spectrum as unmanageable spectrum.”

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