Most operators planning carrier-grade wifi to profit from IoT – research

Nearly 60 per cent of telcos have a firm schedule to complete carrier-grade wifi networks in time for the machine to machine boom, says a report conducted on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

By the year 2020, according to the report, 80 per cent of these (48 per cent of the total) will be running Internet of Things (IoT) applications across them, while half already have plans for creating converged services and Smart City systems.

The report, compiled for WBA by global researcher Maravedis-Rethink, could indicate that confidence is growing in carrier-grade wifi and that ‘best effort networks’ no longer suffice in the telecoms industry.

If the statistical sample reflects global telecoms trends, carrier-grade hotspots will outnumber best effort in the installed base by the end of 2017, according to the WBA. By 2020 less than ten per cent of best effort hotspots will remain as new installations achieve carrier-grade at least. The Wi-Fi service foundation is being upgraded as new telecoms business is underpinned by much more powerful platforms, according to WBA CEO Shrikant Shenwai.

As operator confidence in carrier grade wifi technology has increased there has been a surge in the growth of deployments in the past 12 months, according to Shenwai, and that trend will continue. Shenwai said the industry could expect a 70 per cent rise in the number of carrier-grade public wifi hotspots. “These shifts mean that the themes of the WBA’s Vision 2020 are equally applicable to all the ecosystem’s stakeholders,” said Shenwai. The push towards wifi ubiquity will usher in an age of unlicensed wireless, IoT, 5G and beyond, he predicted.

Wifi is becoming the strategic platform for a range of service providers including pure-plays, aggregators, MNOs, MSOs and vertical market operators, says the report. While one-quarter of the business value from wifi comes from cutting costs and boosting earnings today, by 2019 the technology will have become a revenue generator in areas such as smart cities, wifi First and multiplay bundles, says the report.

The report by WBA was based on the most recent annual survey, conducted in Q3 2015, of 212 companies, mostly in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

“The industry has gone from talking about the benefits of carrier-grade Wi-Fi to actually realising its potential,” said Caroline Gabriel, Research Director at Maravedis-Rethink. “As investment increases, the potential returns will grow as new revenue streams develop.”

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