Wi-Fi has become the “most pervasive technology” and is emerging as the de facto communication service for users. Sentiment towards investing in the technology was slowly changing, Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) marketing and industry development senior director Ton Brand said on Thursday.
A number of new Wi-Fi-based services were making their way to the fore, with billions of Wi-Fi-enabled devices already in the hands of consumers, contributing significantly to economic development, he told delegates at the inaugural Wi-Fi Forum of South Africa conference, in Fourways.
A study found that Wi-Fi technologies had generated economic value of $222-billion and delivered a $6.7-billion contribution to US gross domestic product in 2013.
“The world is changing – Wi-Fi first,” Brand said, noting that consumers were experiencing new services as new types of Wi-Fi technologies developed, including Wi-Fi calling, machine-to-machine Wi-Fi, community Wi-Fi and venue and retail Wi-Fi, in addition to the ever-increasing interoperability with other Internet technologies.
The 2014 WBA Industry Report revealed that 56.7% more businesses were confident of investing in public Wi-Fi now than 12 months ago.
Further, 70% of the respondents questioned by the WBA said their key motivation for deploying carrier-grade Wi-Fi was to improve customer experience and increase subscriber retention through interoperability.
Currently, over 50% of Wi-Fi hotspot operators had roaming deals to supplement their network – a rise on the 30% in 2013 – with indications that roaming across technologies resulted in 70% more use.
Brand explained that interoperability with other Internet technologies through roaming agreements between mobile operators and Wi-Fi operators was increasingly becoming important to convert investment into profit.
With expectations that Wi-Fi would remain a free service, Wi-Fi operators were required to develop different monetising strategies and roaming agreements were now being leveraged.
The convergence of Wi-Fi with other mobile Internet technologies, such as third-generation (3G) and long-term evolution provided mobile operators significant costs savings on broadband provision over their networks.
On its own, the use of 1 GB on a 3G network cost around $22, while converging mobile technologies with Wi-Fi could potentially bring the cost down to $8.40, he pointed out.
“It makes a lot of sense in terms of costs for mobile operators to offload onto Wi-Fi, as it reduces the overall cost on the network.”
Further, neither mobile technologies nor Wi-Fi on its own would be able to deal with the anticipated avalanche of future data demand.
“A combination [of technologies] is inevitable,” said Brand.