Which operators in the US are rolling out Wi-Fi? It’s actually the cable TV operators rather than the mobile operators. With all the commotion (news headlines, whitepapers, conference sessions, etc.) on Wi-Fi offload, why are the mobile operators not quickly rolling out Wi-Fi to manage network congestion, leverage free/unlicensed spectrum? Why are the Cable operators adopting the “Community Wi-Fi” concept instead of the mobile operators? While there are several rather complex answers to these questions, I believe there are several key reasons:
- Mobile operators budgets were focused on LTE build out for the last 18-24 months
- Some Mobile operators assumed (incorrectly it turns out) that LTE would mean excess capacity for years to come
- Cable operators have access to millions of “hotspots” via home routers
- Increasing Wi-Fi coverage beyond home hotspots to public areas creates more valuable footprint for monetization
So what lies ahead for Wi-Fi offload in the US? Several predictions in my humble opinion:
- Cable operators will learn fast how to monetize public Wi-Fi including the “low hanging fruit” of in-bound Wi-Fi roaming of international mobile subscribers.
- Community Wi-Fi will soon turn into a pseudo-ubiquitous wireless footprint for leveraging many interesting services (VoIP and IP-SMS anyone?)
- Mobile operators will allocate capital expenditures to small cell and public Wi-Fi in “strategic’ locations.
- Other (non-cable) fixed broadband operators such as the local xDSL providers will closely evaluate the public Wi-Fi model now that the old scars of municipal Wi-Fi are healed.
These are interesting times in Wi-Fi offload and the coming months are sure to see that more clarity in the offload monetization models is promoted. Fortunately Accuris Networks is closely involved in many of these models allowing us a front row seat.