Company elaborates at upcoming Wi-Fi Offload Summit Africa
The wireless world as we know is changing – and changing quickly, according to Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE: RKUS). In fact, in the not so distant past, Wi-Fi was consumed as a personal connectivity channel in the home, but today it is proving to be a much needed access medium within the enterprise environment and more recently in the mobile operator and carrier ones as well. As Wi-Fi continues to grow and take its rightful place as an essential utility like power and water – industry players are looking at ways to monetise it and use it to open up business opportunities.
“Monthly Wi-Fi data usage is much greater than cellular usage on 3G and 4G smartphones. In fact Wi-Fi accounted for 78%* of data traffic on both 3G and 4G Android smartphones globally, indicative that there’s some major business opportunities to be made by establishing Wi-Fi Hotspot roaming consortiums that bring together what is today disparate high-speed Wi-Fi data access into a unified high-speed network. Additionally, it allows carriers to talk to their competitors customers with Wi-Fi, something they cannot do with 3G/4G,” says Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. “What’s more, enabling Wi-Fi roaming and roaming consortiums looks to be every bit as financially lucrative for service providers as cellular roaming.”
With the capabilities of the Hotspot 2.0 protocol and Hotspot 2.0-enabled devices, led by the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA), Wi-Fi roaming can now easily be done between hotels, convention centres, department stores, stadiums, coffee shops, and basically anyone else with a Wi-Fi infrastructure, including the mobile network operators (MNOs) themselves, who stand to reap the benefits through roaming agreements between themselves and with hotspot venue owners. With these roaming consortiums in place, users will be able to easily roam across the street, across town, or on the other side of the world. “As the potential exists for a huge number of possible roaming partners both domestically and internationally, it is possible to build roaming consortiums with thousands of partners and millions of access points,” adds Fletcher. “What’s more, the larger the Wi-Fi footprint, the greater the utility of the service offering, and the greater the utility of an offering the more that people will pay for such a service. Just look at the history of cellular services as a valid and useful proof point.”
The formation of roaming consortiums opens up tremendous new wireless revenue opportunities for first movers and should make for some interesting and unusual partnerships to say the least. Ironically, these first movers can include a myriad of service providers that don’t even offer a pervasive wireless service today such as over the top (OTT) providers including the likes of Google or Facebook, credit card companies, and anyone else with identity information.
“Hotspot 2.0 roaming consortiums are the beginning of a big trend of mobile operators leveraging Wi-Fi not just for domestic offload to ease congestion, but to also give end users better roaming rates along with a simpler and more secure experience when connecting to different Wi-Fi networks,” adds Fletcher. “Mobile operators can also make money by developing a huge web of business relationships, and though it’s impossible to definitively determine just how much money carriers will be able to make from Hotspot 2.0 roaming arrangements, the reality is that consumers are demanding to connect automatically via Wi-Fi, if the pervasiveness of the connectivity is compelling enough.”
Wi-Fi roaming, as a value-added service, will undoubtedly have the potential to increase carriers’ average revenue per user – given the consumer demand. “Consumer’s demand for connectivity and rich content has risen tremendously,” adds Fletcher. “Wi-Fi has proven to be the solution that works – not to be a replacement to 3G or LTE – but rather a complementary channel for data offload. In fact, if there’s no difference in cost, today’s consumer doesn’t care whether their data runs on 3G or Wi-Fi, as long as they are still able to function at the pace they desire.”
“We will definitely be seeing more hotspots and partnerships with carriers to make Wi-Fi available, but the trick here is not just Wi-Fi availability – it’s ensuring that we provide Wi-Fi that works seamlessly,” adds Fletcher.
While mobile operators may have their reservations when it comes to providing Wi-Fi as a service locally, global success of this strategy and how it has improved communication makes it difficult to ignore. “With Hotspot 2.0, now is the time for operators to start moving down this path, with significant first mover advantages to those who do, as many venues will limit the number of roaming consortiums they join. Likewise, users will flock to those consortiums with the largest footprint, perhaps even paying a premium to do so, which will only make them grow even larger and faster, forever changing the wireless world as we know it,” concludes Fletcher.
As one of the main sponsors of the event, Bryan Goldberg will be representing Ruckus Wireless at the Wi-Fi Offload Summit Africa on the 8th May at Monte Casino in Johannesburg. For more information please visit:
* Smartphone use transforming with the rise of 4G Wi-Fi, Informa in association with Mobidia, February 2014