WiFi hotspots globally will get a major boost over the next few years.
According to new research sponsored by Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), fixed and mobile operators alike are pouring resources into WiFi hotspots with the goal of improving connectivity from best-effort status to carrier-grade. Real Wireless and Rethink Technology Research conducted the study for Amdocs and found that carrier-grade connections are on track to jump from 14% of total WiFi hotspots in 2014 to 72% in 2018. The findings are based on research with 40 service providers across Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.
Wireline operators are taking advantage of hotspots to extend their network coverage, while wireless providers are using them to offload mobile traffic. Unfortunately, the monetization options for these hotspots have been limited thanks to the minimal ability of operators to control quality of service. In an effort to change the revenue outlook, 85% of operators in the Amdocs study said they plan to invest by 2016 in making WiFi perform more like cellular broadband.
WiFi upgrades aren't a solo effort. With the goal of standardizing carrier-grade WiFi, several industry groups are collaborating on new technology to improve collective QoS. These efforts include developing application-based traffic prioritization solutions, and tools for controlling traffic management based on congestion at individual access points. These industry associations hope to begin certifying WiFi products as carrier-grade in 2015 or 2016. (See Carrier-Grade WiFi Still 2 Years Away – CableLabs.)
Other findings in the most recent Amdocs study include the fact that 61% of wireline operators and 70% of mobile operators expect to source WiFi hotspots from third parties by the end of 2016. A significant portion, 77%, also expects to leverage home-based hotspots or "homespots" within the next two years. (See How Home Hotspots Could Hit Hurdles.)
Conveniently for Amdocs, which provides network optimization solutions, the company also found that two-thirds of study respondents listed a "lack of strong network planning and management tools" among the top three risk factors for WiFi investments. Those operators largely believe that existing tools for WiFi management won't suffice in the future.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading