When integrating Wi-Fi, operators need to think quality

Written by on March 30, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments

As we incorporate Wi-Fi we must get more sophisticated, says a new paper from Openet. The challenge, though, is that customers are already used to using Wi-Fi, it is normally free and therefore moving it into a money making model will be difficult. Research conducted by App Annie late last year revealed that Wi-Fi accounts for 75 percent of data traffic, and in Germany this figure hits 90 percent. No wonder the Regulator felt the need to intervene in the recent liability issue.

300x300-ad-guidebook-wifiThe critical thing to get right, according to the paper, is quality. Wi-Fi has come a long way, since the days of the Internet Café (some companies have gone from Cafe to Service Provider) and if carriers want to integrate it with their cellular offerings, then quality must be at the centre of the service.

Examples are emerging. Singtel is offering a ‘combo’ plan, where customers are switched automatically, and without needing a password, between 3 and 4G, and their Wi-Fi network. Singtel’s Wi-Fi is, they say, five times faster than normal, it is available at 700 hotspots and is cheap (until June this year, it is free).

In North America, Sprint came to an agreement with Boingo to offload customers onto their Wi-Fi networks at 35 major airports. The company predicts that 40 million Sprint customers will have access to their network, and since they started the partnership in 2013, when customers were using 35MB per session, they are now using 300.

Wi-Fi used to be ‘always cheapest connected’, but now it is moving to ‘always best connected.’ Quality is key, and now we see MVNOs appearing who take advantage of the low cost and are launching Wi-Fi first services. Google’s Project Fi does this.

Managing this quality is not easy and connecting customer devices to the best quality option. One solution is ‘Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) [which] enables prioritization of Wi-Fi networks under dynamic conditions, such as coordinating attachment to one network versus another when bandwidth is better, or network congestion is occurring on one of the networks considered’.

Deciding which network is best for the customer can be done with a mixture of customer profiling – what they generally do and where – and understanding the available capabilities, and their location. This network intelligence can drive use cases, such as:

  • Congestion Management and Intelligent Traffic Steering
  • Customer Visibility and Analytics
  • Co-ordinated Policy Controls and QoE
  • Improved Customer Experience

As the thirst for bandwidth continues, customers do not actually care whether they are on Wi-Fi or 4G, what they care about is that the video that they are watching is as good as they expect, that they do not suffer from buffer rage and that the experience is seamless. Operators need to think carefully about quality when they consider how to integrate Wi-Fi into their offerings.

A recommended read, the paper can be found here, and is free to download.

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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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