A global survey that explores the current state of service provider Wi-Fi deployments conducted for Amdocs by research and consultancy firm Analysys Mason, reveals that service differentiation is now viewed as the top driver for Wi-Fi – ahead of Wi-Fi data offloading – and that discovering new and innovative ways to monetise Wi-Fi is becoming a top priority for service providers.
The survey reveals:
- Wi-Fi is critical to service provider growth strategies: eighty-nine percent of all service providers surveyed (including fixed, mobile and cable) have either deployed, or plan to deploy or leverage, Wi-Fi networks.
- On average, respondents ranked Wi-Fi's importance as 7+ out of 10, underscoring the strategic value of Wi-Fi for service provider growth.
- Service differentiation is the top driver for Wi-Fi. Forty per cent of service providers cited service differentiation as the #1 driver for their Wi-Fi strategies, indicating that operators expect Wi-Fi to be more than a solution for simply offloading congested networks and are interested in using it to provide incremental value to their customers.
- A seamless experience is considered strategically important, but authentication issues are viewed as the top technical barrier to deploying Wi-Fi: providing a seamless subscriber experience between cellular and Wi-Fi networks was weighted strongly (average score: 8.1 out of 10) by service providers, which suggests that they view a high-quality customer experience across 3G/4G/Wi-Fi as a top priority.
- However, user authentication ranked highest among the top technical barriers to deploying Wi-Fi, highlighting the importance of flexible and secure authentication in achieving a seamless experience.
- Wi-Fi roaming is a priority for service providers – on average, Wi-Fi roaming – while still a relatively immature market -- was ranked 8 out of 10 in terms of strategic importance.
- New monetisation models needed: Fifty-seven per cent of service providers who have deployed Wi-Fi claim they are monetizing their offerings, but the survey also found that many of them are looking for innovative models that go beyond directly charging customers (who typically equate Wi-Fi with free Internet access). These findings suggest that operator business cases for Wi-Fi services are underdeveloped.
- First-mover advantage is critical: capturing key strategic locations for Wi-Fi hotpots before they are claimed by competitors is a key objective for many service providers. Even ''build-only'' service providers will need to partner to capture these key sites.
''Our research shows that while the service provider Wi-Fi market is still in its early stages, service providers are adopting a forward-looking attitude that goes beyond using regular Wi-Fi to offload congested 3G and 4G networks,'' says Chris Nicoll, principal analyst at Analysys Mason. ''While offload is still a priority, it's clear that service providers are looking to service provider Wi-Fi as a competitive differentiator, and there is strong interest in exploring new and innovative business models for Wi-Fi monetization.''
Rebecca Prudhomme, Amdocs vice president for product and solutions marketing, says,''Service providers are now focusing on service differentiation, customer experience and monetisation in Wi-Fi. This underscores the importance of having secure, scalable authentication and authorization solutions in place for ensuring a seamless experience as customers move in and out of the Wi-Fi network. Furthermore, real-time policy control opens up new opportunities for Wi-Fi monetisation by allowing service providers to offer a range of differentiated services over Wi-Fi, such as tiered services and premium quality of service.''