Wifi finally an ally not an enemy for operators – Fon

Wifi provider Fon’s CEO has said both fixed and wireless operators are finally seeing wifi in a different light, after nearly a decade of viewing it as a threat to business.

Speaking to at Mobile World Congress, Fon CEO Alex Puregger explained how the attitude towards wifi has changed over the past decade.

“If you look at the history of wifi, ten years ago everyone thought it was the only way to get proper access to the internet,” Puregger said. “Now you’ll say wifi is working pretty well, but 4G is working really well. Still, talk to operators now and we know that more than 75% of all mobile traffic goes over wifi. It’s not seen as the enemy anymore or that wifi will kill operators; no, it’s a major part of traffic transportation, and it’s not going to kill LTE.”

Puregger’s words have a substantial foundation in reality. With the exception of the small percentage of mobile users who genuinely get faster speeds over LTE on their mobile device than they do on most wifi networks, wifi connectivity reigns supreme. Cisco’s Visual Network Index puts mobile traffic being transported over wifi at nearly 80%, and that comes down to the perception from users that wifi access is – usually – a free connection with generally reliable access.

As far as Puregger is concerned, however, the user experience isn’t reliable enough.

“At the end of the day, you put a box in your house and connect and users don’t care if that’s an LTE-U connection or from a fibre connection or whatever. They only care if there’s a flashing red light on the box, and unfortunately there are too many flashing red lights for my liking.”

The issue for service providers though, according to Fon, is being able to promptly remedy any issues coming in from customers relating to wifi.

“There’s a huge percentage of incoming customer queries to operators which are related to wifi service issues,” said Puregger. “Today, Google knows everyone you’ve met in the past five years, but the best piece of help you get from your operator when there are router problems is to turn it back on and off again!”

The reason for this, according to Puregger, comes down to a lack of connectivity in today’s standard router. Not ‘connectivity’ in the conventional way, but a lack of connectivity to the cloud for more centralised control and insights into router behaviour and performance.

With that in mind, Fon has launched a new wifi management solution for operators to gain greater insight, connectivity and service delivery potential. While Fon says this approach to wifi will help operators segment user profiles, personalise services with greater analytics granularity and boost ARPU, Puregger says this is coming down to the fact that wifi is generally being taken far more seriously today than it ever has been.

“I remember in one of the conferences many years ago, when wifi was very young and nowhere in the mobile world, you could get kicked out of meetings with mobile operators for almost mentioning wifi,” Puregger said. “Now, operators take it seriously from the fixed perspective, and see it as far less of a threat for mobile.”

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