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The Public Wi-Fi worldwide: opportunities and strategies for mobile operators in the age of pervasive LTE

The Public Wi-Fi worldwide: opportunities and strategies for mobile operators in the age of pervasive LTE

Mobile network operators are concerned about whether the benefits of owning public Wi-Fi networks outweigh the costs as LTE adoption increases. This Viewpoint addresses these concerns by providing insights into forecasts for volumes of public Wi-Fi data traffic worldwide and consumer behaviour, and suggests strategies to monetise public Wi-Fi networks.


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Executive summary
The volume of public Wi-Fi data is, and will be, dwarfed by private Wi-Fi and mobile data, but it can act as a companion to mobile networks
Public Wi-Fi offloading varies by country – only a handful of countries have high public Wi-Fi usage owing to country-specific dynamics
The extent to which public Wi-Fi occupies a significant role depends on externalities beyond MNOs' control
China is exceptional in terms of Wi-Fi usage – public Wi-Fi data traffic far exceeds that of mobile data
China Mobile: Over-aggressive deployment of Wi-Fi to shield TD-SCDMA technology has led to high cannibalisation of mobile data revenue
Public Wi-Fi usage in the UK is high because of the many hotspots deployed via fixed-line operators, pay-TV providers, ISPs and MNOs
Government initiatives (Wireless@SG) in Singapore and cable companies in the USA are major public Wi-Fi providers – MNOs are absent
The volume of traffic offloaded onto public Wi-Fi is low even in developed markets with high volumes of mobile traffic and strong Wi-Fi coverage
Public Wi-Fi will be in relative decline in all advanced markets by 2017
Higher data quotas and higher speeds provided by LTE can potentially incentivise consumers to use LTE instead of Wi-Fi
Primary surveys show that LTE users use proportionately less Wi-Fi than 3G users, but the decline appears to be coming mostly from public Wi-Fi
EE suggests that its 4G customers are using 4G instead of slow Wi-Fi, but only for shorter sessions and specific services
Four main types of Wi-Fi business models exist, but only one category (proactive public Wi-Fi deployment) will be affected by pervasive LTE
Proactive Wi-Fi operators have applied the following revenue streams for direct Wi-Fi monetisation, but revenue is under pressure from LTE
In order to combat the risk of declining public Wi-Fi traffic and revenue, proactive Wi-Fi operators should explore new revenue streams
Key recommendations for proactive public Wi-Fi operators to ensure that their Wi-Fi deployments remain relevant and valuable
About the authors and Analysys Mason

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