According to internationally recognised research, Wi-Fi is increasingly becoming an indispensable part of many consumers’ lives and already accounts for a growing proportion of their wireless usage.
A January 2013 report by “the Analyses Mason on Wi-Fi adoption in mobile networks,” reveals a number of thought-provoking statistics including that an estimated 75% of smartphone users in the US and selected European countries use Wi-Fi.
Overall, the percentage of smartphone data carried via Wi-Fi is already over 50% in Europe and the US with Ericsson predicting 65% of laptops using Wi-Fi as preferred connectivity. Most operators are responding to users’ data consumption needs by deploying Wi-Fi; 70% of the operators already have a Wi-Fi proposition in place, and those that have not yet deployed Wi-Fi generally plan to do so in the next 12-to-18 months.
While the need to deploy Wi-Fi infrastructure is clear for most service providers, it is the formulation and structuring of a viable business case and successful deployments that are the missing elements.
Most current large-scale Wi-Fi deployments are motivated from a “traffic offload” perspective rather than unlocking additional revenue by implementing a Wi-Fi-centric business model.
Those service providers that have succeeded in defining profitable business models for Wi-Fi services have been prepared to view Wi-Fi as a strategic initiative with a specific corporate focus.
They effectively integrated the technology, market demand, corporate strategy and delivery capability to address this focussed market. For most large scale mobile operators it is an inherent challenge to provide a niche service such as Wi-Fi, to apply the focus and resources needed while at the same time taking care of the mainstream core business.
Furthermore, the successful deployment of Wi-Fi networks to service large-scale public areas such as shopping malls, residential gated communities, hotels and other high density areas requires specialised engineering skills and products specifically developed for outdoor networks.
Since Wi-Fi is widely used as an indoor access medium it is generally perceived as a “plug-and-play” technology and Service Providers often underestimate the special engineering and product requirements needed for outdoor environments.
In order to successfully develop profitable Wi-Fi service offerings it is proposed that Service Providers acknowledge Wi-Fi for what it is today, a mainstream specialised application. Overcoming this paradox will be the key in unlocking future revenues from Wi-Fi networks. It is, and will become more and more, a medium used and preferred by the mass consumer market while it still requires specialised strategic, business and engineering skills to plan, implement and operate these networks.
Service Providers who want to capitalize on this emerging market would do well to partner with specialist companies that can provide the integrated business consulting and engineering expertise required for successful implementation and operation of Wi-Fi networks.
Leveraging specialised skills will allow operators to capture Wi-Fi market share while at the same time maintain their focus on core business functions.
Dr Dawie de Wet (PhD Electronic Engineering), CEO at Q-KON