According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, more than three billion Wi-Fi-enabled devices will ship in 2017 joining more than eight billion devices already in use. What does this mean for communication service providers? Getting Wi-Fi right has never been more critical. From winning the war for relevance inside and outside the home to combating subscriber churn in an increasingly competitive and diverse marketplace, Wi-Fi is paramount.
Earlier this week while on LinkedIn I saw the image to the right, and I started to think about how true this is. In today’s world being connected is a part of the basic human need. We need to be able to check email, surf the internet, connect with friends and family, and most importantly, check into our favorite restaurants. We have become so reliant on these connections that we don’t appreciate the complex device and network technologies required to get connected and stay connected.
2013 marked a rapid increase in interest to improve cellular to Wi-Fi interoperability – not just from mobile operators, but also from cable operators, fixed line operators and enterprises. The interest is truly global as organizations in every region are developing strategies to leverage Wi-Fi for a variety of reasons, including network congestion relief, improved in-building coverage, and ability to offer lower cost wireless service plans. However, in order to achieve truly seamless interoperability across heterogeneous networks from any provider, the industry needs to resolve challenges associated with connectivity, authentication, session persistence and traffic management. This is the objective of several emerging industry standards, including a set being developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) known as Access Network Discovery and Selection Function, or ANDSF.
Faster device launches, reduced device install times and cross-platform compatibility are a few of the benefits mobile operators and device manufacturers can experience when incorporating the mobile broadband interface model on their devices. Microsoft has adopted the standard in all of their Windows 8 devices and although we are now seeing evidence of these benefits in the market, the industry has a long way to go.
Free over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps with text, VoIP and even video features have made the traditional operator revenue model of paid messaging subscriptions, and even monthly voice minutes, obsolete. With continued smartphone growth and so many free alternatives available, subscriber expectations have changed and users are becoming less likely to pay for basic messaging services, eroding a multi-billion dollar revenue stream for mobile operators. These driving factors have forced operators to rethink their approach and created a push for Rich Communications Services (RCS) as a standard that will help mobile operators compete with OTT services. So far, the standard has seen limited uptake, and the value to operators is still in question.