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Improving customer experience and ultimately retaining subscribers if the key motivation behind carriers’ efforts to deploy next generation Wi-Fi technologies, according to a survey commissioned by a global alliance of carriers and network equipment providers.

The annual survey conducted by research firm Maravedis-Rethink for the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), revealed that 70 per cent of carriers deploy carrier-grade Wi-Fi in their systems in order “to improve customer experience and therefore increase subscriber retention.” As many as 41 per cent of respondents also indicated this as most important driver to invest in next generation hotspots (NGH), ahead of offload.

“This research underlines the growing momentum behind Wi-Fi that is increasing year-on-year, driven by the ecosystem coming together to develop the technology and promote its wide ranging benefits,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA. “The significant progress in live commercial NGH deployments, and in turn new monetization strategies, provide evidence of major improvements in quality of service, ease of use and revenue generation that the technology brings.”

The survey also highlighted that there is an increasing shift in attitude towards Wi-Fi. The largest figure ever seen in this annual survey – 56.7 per cent- said they were more confident about investing in public Wi-Fi (whether as operators or in offering products and carrier services), than they had been a year ago.

In the 2013 study, the figure was just under 52 per cent, and that, in turn, was up from 43 per cent in 2012.

These higher levels of confidence will certainly translate into larger and faster build-outs with Wi-Fi being deployed in a broad range of venues, according to a statement by WBA.

Certain locations continue to dominate the Wi-Fi business due to the volume of traffic and criticality of services.

In both 2013 and 2014, large venues such as stadiums and shopping malls will be among the biggest drivers of traffic growth said over 50 per cent of respondents, followed by travel hubs such as airports (cited by 48 per cent) and connectivity on board transportation (41 per cent).

Now NGH is a commercial reality, monetization is rising to the top of the agenda and the most dramatic change from last year is that 35 per cent of respondents are implementing Wi-Fi roaming as one of their monetization strategies – charging for roaming access, or providing tools and platforms to enable this. That is up sharply from just 10 per cent in 2013.

The survey also found that Wi-Fi roaming will continue to be an important way to extend coverage, especially internationally. In the 2013 survey, 30 per cent of the hotspot operators also had roaming deals to supplement their networks, while in 2014, that percentage has risen to just over half.

Among those surveyed, there was a total base of over 2.8 million directly owned and managed hotspots, and an average of 42,000 in a deployment. But when roaming was included, the carriers could provide a total of 8.85 million locations between them, or an average of 193,000 each.

As many as 44 per cent expected to have NGH deployed by the end of 2015.

By the end of 2016, a further 31 per cent of those with active plans for NGH expect to have deployed.

That would indicate uptake of 84 per cent by that stage among those players which are already making their plans to deploy. This revelation comes at a time when significant advances have been made in NGH deployments which now include 12 live commercial deployments worldwide.



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