Is WiFi a competitor to mobile?

Written by on February 17, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

Work EverywhereIt is easy to think that WiFi is, well, just WiFi. It is a box that sits by the telephone in the kitchen, amongst the pens, cables, keys and other things that live by the telephone and allows you to get your email. Recently, though, we have been reading about WiFi becoming ubiquitous. And, according to the WiFi Alliance taking on mobile operators.

The Alliance produced a list of their predictions for 2015 and they make interesting reading. As an introduction, it says that WiFi carried 42 percent of the world’s mobile data traffic, 90 percent of the tablet traffic and connected people to 47 million public hotspots worldwide.

In the list of predictions, which celebrate WiFi’s 15th birthday, are a few self congratulatory ones such as the performance of WiFi will continue to improve and roaming will become easier, but some make you think.

For example, retailers are becoming a major driver of WiFi. Shoppers have become adept at shopping while shopping – finding something they like and then searching for the best price online. Retailers’ first reaction was to try and stop this, and then they turned the problem on its head and used the web to lure customers into their shops. Pricing became democratic and shopping in large stores is becoming a richer and seamless experience between the online and bricks and mortar worlds.

We posted a story yesterday about JC Decaux putting WiFi in bus shelters. This will allow people, with a few minutes to kill, to point their phone at an advert and get a whole new layer of information or entertainment. To advertisers, an audience that has a few minutes to kill is nirvana. Just now, we posted news that short haul airlines are catching on.

Perhaps the most surprising ‘prediction’ is that mobile operators will ‘feel the heat.’ WiFi is, perhaps, not directly competitive to a mobile operator’s network but it is certainly driving them to roll out their own, to cut the others off at the pass. It is also a large part of mobile operators’ offload strategy. Mobile operators are also watching cable companies investing millions in WiFi which will bring them into direct competition.

WiFi will continue to grow. The technology itself will behave more and more like a flexible, intelligent 4G network. To roll out WiFi means to be completely, seamlessly inter-operable.

Ultimately customers will expect WiFi – safe, secure WiFi – everywhere. Whether we will get to the point that mobile operators will not need 5G or LTE or massive investment in whatever the next game changing technology is we will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, though, WiFi is no longer just a box by the phone.

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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