Wi-Fi researchBuoyed by development of Hotspot 2.0, the quality and performance of carrier WiFi is approaching that of mobile and fixed-line broadband — and WiFi and mobile network operators are responding by ramping up deployments, according to a new report from Infonetics Research.

Surveying “independent wireless, incumbent, competitive and cable operators” across the globe, Infonetics determined there are some 32,000 carrier WiFi hotspots at present, a number it expects will grow 33 percent and reach 44,000 by 2015, according to a company press release.

Forty percent of operator respondents said they expect to integrate Hotspot 2.0 with more than half their access points by the end of 2015. Finding ways of monetizing WiFi services is prominent on the minds of WiFi service operators as well, according to Infonetics’ “2014 Carrier WiFi Strategies and Vendor Leadership: Global Service Provider Survey.” Pre-pay, WiFi bundled with mobile broadband subscriptions, and tiered hotspots were the Top 3 monetization models cited.

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“Operators are betting pretty big on carrier WiFi, but they’re also keen to develop ways of monetizing services so that WiFi starts to pay for itself over the coming years. WiFi roaming and location-based services are examples of customer plans that are growing fast,” commented Infonetics directing analyst for mobile backhaul and small cells Richard Webb.

“Carrier WiFi deployments are evolving to deliver the same quality of experience as mobile and fixed-line broadband service environments, and this is driving WiFi networks to become more closely integrated,” Webb continued. “Hotspot 2.0, a key tool developed by the industry to aid this drive, shows rapid adoption by carriers participating in our latest carrier WiFi survey.”

Other highlights from Infonetics’ latest report include:

  • WiFi as a separate overlay network currently leads the list of technologies and architectures for offloading data traffic; meanwhile, more sophisticated carrier WiFi architectures gain gradual traction as respondents look to bring WiFi into the mobile RAN via SIM-based service models or by deploying dual-mode WiFi/small cells
  • Respondents perceive Cisco and Ruckus Wireless as the top carrier WiFi manufacturers for the second consecutive year

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