Ru­ral is the Next Fron­tier for WiFi

Voice&Data - - SPECIAL REPORT -

Year 2016 res­onated as the year of Wi-Fi dom­i­na­tion es­pe­cially in the mo­bile con­ver­sa­tion space and glob­ally wit­nessed a re­mark­able surge in the num­ber of Wi-Fi hotspots. Now, step­ping into 2017 with a gush in smart­phone pen­e­tra­tion, a study by iPass and Mar­avedis Re­think es­ti­mates that the num­ber of pub­lic hotspots will con­tinue to in­crease al­most eight-fold over the next cou­ple of years and by 2018 com­mer­cial Wi-Fi hotspots across the globe will cross the 300 mil­lion mark. Hence, there will be one Wi-Fi hotspot for ev­ery 20 peo­ple, which is a vast in­crease from today’s one Wi-Fi hotspot for ev­ery 150 peo­ple. Also, by 2020 it is pre­dicted that 24 bil­lion de­vices will be con­nected to the in­ter­net and ma­jor­ity will use some form of wire­less for ac­cess.

Re­cen­tiPass Mo­bile Pro­fes­sional Re­port 2016 an­a­lyzes some of the big­gest con­nec­tiv­ity trends af­fect­ing mo­bile pro­fes­sion­als in the US and Europe. The re­port high­lights the fact that today’s mo­bile pro­fes­sional is heav­ily re­liant on Wi-Fi and is in­creas­ingly choos­ing Wi-Fi over other con­nec­tiv­ity meth­ods. Fur­ther­more, many pro­fes­sion­als are mak­ing their travel choices based on the Wi-Fi ex­pe­ri­ence. In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity has be­come an es­sen­tial part of our daily lives, to such an ex­tent that Wi-Fi has sur­passed many other hu­man lux­u­ries and ne­ces­si­ties in im­por­tance. Forty per­cent of re­spon­dents said that Wi-Fi is more im­por­tant to them than sex, chocolate or al­co­hol.

The num­ber of wire­less in­ter­net users in In­dia are likely to cross 790 mil­lion by 2020 with more than 60% of users ac­cess­ing the in­ter­net through their mo­bile phones. As per the Eric­s­son Mo­bil­ity Re­port this year, over 85% of data traf­fic gen­er­ated by the use of smart phone video apps goes over Wi-Fi. The study notes that al­though cel­lu­lar data us­age on smart phones is grow­ing, Wi-Fi data growth is dra­mat­i­cally out­pac­ing it. The In­dian Wi-Fi mar­ket mean­while, is po­si­tioned to grow seven times faster than the global Wi-Fi mar­ket. Also, dur­ing the same pe­riod look­ing at the growth of Wi-Fi in evolved mar­kets, the fol­low­ing trends are likely to be seen in In­dia in the Wi-Fi space:

Wi-Fi Call­ing:

Call drops have long since plagued the In­dian con­sumer and tele­coms alike. But now more and more con­sumers are us­ing Wi-Fi to con­nect their mo­bile phone seam­lessly to WiFi net­works where op­er­a­tor’s sig­nal is weak, en­sur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion is com­pleted. This in­cludes Wi-Fi con­nec­tion at home or pub­lic hotspot like Con­naught Place, Star­bucks, etc. Wi-Fi call­ing is still in its in­fancy in In­dia but op­er­a­tors such as Tata Te­le­ser­vices are try­ing to be the first of many to of­fer it as an op­tion. Wi-Fi call­ing is tak­ing off with more com­mer­cial launches and new de­vices with Wi-Fi call­ing. Op­er­a­tors can ex­tend their voice ser­vice in­doors so con­sumers can make calls in their homes over their own Wi-Fi ac­cess points, us­ing any In­ter­net Ser­vice Provider (ISP). Wi-Fi will soon

be­come an im­por­tant part of in­door mo­bile cov­er­age.

Wi-First: Wi-Fi first refers to mo­bile de­vices and ser­vices that use Wi-Fi as the pri­mary net­work and cel­lu­lar net­works only to fill the gaps. This type of so­lu­tion has tremen­dous ben­e­fit to con­sumers and is open­ing doors for en­tirely new busi­ness mod­els. It has the po­ten­tial to change the in­dus­try, putting Wi-Fi at the fore­front of mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions. A Wi-Fi first smart­phone con­nects to Wi-Fi wher­ever and when­ever it is avail­able for voice, mes­sag­ing and data ser­vices. It only ac­cesses mo­bile net­works when Wi-Fi is not avail­able. At the same time Wi-Fi op­er­a­tors will thus have an op­por­tu­nity to own the customer re­la­tion­ship and win the bat­tle for con­sumer at­ten­tion, while ul­ti­mately cre­at­ing new rev­enue streams.

Wi-Fi Roam­ing: Wi-Fi roam­ing on a grand scale is the or­der of the day as a ris­ing per­cent­age of wire­less data trav­els over the un­li­censed-band tech­nol­ogy and as a wide range of ser­vice providers put Wi-Fi at the heart of their net­works. Over the next cou­ple of years, we en­vi­sion a na­tion­wide roam­ing agree­ment that will pro­vide seam­less ac­cess to hun­dreds and thou­sands of hotspots and homespots. How­ever, con­sid­er­ing that pub­lic Wi-Fi in In­dia is cur­rently very limited in its reach and qual­ity and is only avail­able point-to-point in very se­lected ar­eas, we as op­er­a­tors would mainly fo­cus on cre­at­ing a na­tion­wide net­work of ca­ble co-de­ployed hotspots.

IoT and Big Data An­a­lyt­ics: The huge amounts of data which will be gen­er­ated by the bil­lions of con­nected peo­ple and ob­jects can be har­nessed to sup­port en­tirely new ser­vice and rev­enue streams in mar­ket­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing, con­tent, com­merce and oth­ers, en­abled by the cloud and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

Con­verged Ser­vices: Some new or en­hanced ser­vices di­rectly rely on the con­verged li­censed/un­li­censed and wired/wire­less net­works, in par­tic­u­lar the rise of mul­ti­ple of­fer­ings for con­sumers, com­bin­ing broad­band, voice and video over mul­ti­ple con­nec­tions and screens.

Emer­gence of Dig­i­tal Vil­lages: The pro­lific smart­phone pen­e­tra­tion, in ad­di­tion to im­prov­ing net­works, is help­ing the data surge in the en­tire coun­try, es­pe­cially the ru­ral ar­eas. Though, right now the fo­cus of pub­lic Wi-Fi re­mains on the ur­ban cities, ru­ral is the next fron­tier for us. The In­dian mar­ket today is flooded with af­ford­able smart de­vices by both do­mes­tic and tier-one de­vice man­u­fac­tur­ers. This will soon open-up the de­mand for pub­lic Wi-Fi in the hin­ter­lands as well. There­fore, we see Pub­lic Wi-Fi sys­tems play­ing a very piv­otal role in Gov­ern­ment’s am­bi­tious “Dig­i­tal In­dia mis­sion” as well. By the year 2019, the ‘Dig­i­tal In­dia’ pro­gram of the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia (GOI), en­vis­ages that 250,000 In­dian vil­lages will en­joy broad­band con­nec­tiv­ity, and univer­sal phone con­nec­tiv­ity.

Splurge in Voice and Video: In the next 12 months or so, the num­ber of peo­ple us­ing Wi-Fi to make calls and send video will con­tinue to in­crease. Mo­bile car­ri­ers have al­ready sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased their Wi-Fi foot­print, and the most ad­vanced Wi-Fi en­abled phones now of­fer seam­less in-call switch­ing be­tween 4G and Wi-Fi net­works.

Sync; Con­nect; Re­peat: Stor­age syn­chro­niza­tion with pop­u­lar cloud-based ap­pli­ca­tions such as Drop­box, Google Drive and iCloud will in­crease dra­mat­i­cally dur­ing 2017, as will the amount of Wi-Fi-en­abled IoT traf­fic. Even ba­sic home and of­fice de­vices such as print­ers, which used to rely al­most ex­clu­sively on wired con­nec­tions, will make the move to wire­less.

As per the Eric­s­son Mo­bil­ity Re­port in 2016 over 85% of data traf­fic gen­er­ated by the use of smart phone video apps goes over Wi-Fi. The study notes that al­though cel­lu­lar data us­age on smart phones is grow­ing, Wi-Fi data growth is out­pac­ing it

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