Wi-Fi has become a household necessity even for kids as young as 4 years of age. It is No. 1 method of connecting in the home, at work, and, increasingly, in public spaces. Although Wi-Fi is expected to be free, enterprises, venues, and service providers are working hard to find ways to monetize this amenity. Verticals such as retail and hospitality who depend increasingly on Wi-Fi to run their businesses and satisfy their customer needs, are now fully embracing innovative ways to leverage their Wi-Fi infrastructure
The last several years have also witnessed the change of the telcos attitude towards Wi-Fi. On one hand, the mobile network operators (MNOs) have realized that, by offloading a portion of the mobile data traffic and thus embracing high-quality Wi-Fi, they could both reduce their OPEX and improve customer experience with or without unlimited mobile data plans. On the other hand, the cable operators, particularly in the US, are finally in a position to offer viable wireless services and leverage their extensive Wi-Fi and homespot footprint.
In this context, numerous innovations have been implemented in the last few years to improve the end-user experience and to ensure that onboarding is both seamless and secure. In particular, Wi-Fi SaaS vendors have developed different solutions for offloading to roaming and monetization. This report discusses the overall market and technology trends encompassing service providers, enterprises, and venues; however, the primary focus is on the guest Wi-Fi solutions and market size projections.
Indeed, the Wi-Fi software as a service is a rather broad topic in itself. Functions like offloading and roaming have a loose relation to location-based marketing and guest Wi-Fi. Those are different propositions for distinct uses cases and markets. While some players may be participating in both, the dynamics are different and, therefore, projecting their respective markets within a single report is an arduous exercise. Wi-Fi offloading and roaming are sufficiently broad and distinct for their own dedicated report and set of projections. Consequently, the present report provides market projections ONLY for the guest Wi-Fi portion of the business for both telcos and enterprises. While discussing roaming and offloading trends from a qualitative perspective, the report does not include market forecasts for roaming and offloading.
The guest Wi-Fi SaaS vendors have barely scratched the surface of its market potential. According to our estimates, only about 1 million access points are “powered” today with managed guest Wi-Fi SaaS worldwide. Yet, the potential is for more than 69 million managed access points by 2023 from 34 million today which could use a SaaS platform but do not
Currently, the guest Wi-Fi SaaS landscape features small vendors with fewer than 300 employees and guest Wi-Fi revenues of less than $10 million each. There is no clear one leader today among the SaaS vendors but the top 3 account for 80% of deployments measured in access points. There vendors are catering to both telcos and enterprises but with limited scale deployments of less than 200,000 access points each. However the market potential is real with annual revenues from license fees sold to distributors and service providers of $9 billion by 2023.
Yet, what is obvious is that this is a volume business above all: the more access points and users using the software, the more licensing revenue. Consequently, the major concern of solution vendors is how to scale—and do it fast before depleting their financial resources.
This report is based on years closely tracking the Wi-Fi industry, speaking to both service providers and solution vendors. Some of the information shared by the providers and vendors interviewed remains under non-disclosure agreement; however, the data and insights shared by these industry insiders were useful to provide a detailed account of the state of the market as well as understand key trends.
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Because of these many benefits, there are numerous organizations that are now moving to cloud Wi-Fi. Distributed enterprises, large businesses, university campuses, or any organization with multiple sites and WLANs will benefit immensely from cloud-managed Wi-Fi, as would organizations with limited IT staff such as SMBs. Organizations that encourage BYOD or have elastic network requirements would similarly see advantages from switching to cloud-managed Wi-Fi. Lastly, any organizations with mission-critical network needs will benefit from the reliability of cloud-managed networks.
Despite being sill defined, 5G is becoming a priority for telecom operators as 5G comes with the promise of unseen services and a broad range of new use cases and business models ranging from enabling autonomous vehicles to smart agriculture and factories. 5G is expected to push the digitization of the economy further due to its ability to handle large volumes of data with low latency in real time.
Broadband internet service in the U.S. has been plagued by uncompetitive practices. Large, nationwide internet service providers (ISPs) have built monopolies that prohibit innovation, drive down levels of service, and block competitors from entering the market. In their 2016 Broadband Progress Report, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that only 38% of Americans have more than one choice of broadband provider, and only 10% of Americans have access to broadband speeds of up to 25 Mbps downlink/3 Mbps uplink. Many Americans lack access to broadband internet entirely, especially in rural areas: 39% of rural Americans, 4% of urban Americans, and 41% of Americans living on Tribal lands do not have access to broadband services. In light of these factors, the FCC concluded that “advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.”
Compounding this issue is the ever-increasing consumer demand for broadband access. Online media continues to grow in popularity, and as a result many wireline and cable service providers are experiencing customer churn. In the first quarter of 2017, 612,000 Americans cancelled their pay-TV subscriptions (referred to as “cutting the cord”), and an additional 10.8 million pay-TV subscribers are predicted to cut the cord by 2021. As pay-TV gives way to online subscription services, the need for fast and reliable broadband internet is being brought into sharp focus.
Some organizations have attempted to provide a better broadband option to consumers, through the deployment of fiber-optic networks. For example, Google Fiber, announced in 2010, offers fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) high-speed broadband internet with downlink speeds of up to 1 Gbps. Verizon Fios is another FTTH fiber solution that offers high speed broadband, up to a “Fios Gigabit Connection” of 940 Mbps down/880 Mbps up. Such networks serve to raise consumer expectations of broadband internet, pressuring ISPs to improve service. However, deploying fiber networks is a slow and expensive process, with an installation cost estimated to be approximately $1000 per home. Accordingly, despite the high speeds available with fiber, time and cost expenses prohibit fiber as a practical broadband remedy.
Therefore, to overcome the problems of anti-competitive ISPs and increasing demand for high speed broadband services, a new solution is required. A promising option is to adopt millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, which covers the spectrum from 30 – 300 GHz, to deploy fixed broadband wireless solutions. In 2015, to prepare for future Fifth Generation (5G) mobile services, the FCC proposed licensing for spectrum bands in the mmWave range, including 27.5 – 28.35 GHz, 37 – 38.6 GHz, 38.6 – 40 GHz, 57 – 64 GHz, and 64 – 71 GHz. Though mmWave bands show potential for future broadband services, many of them suffer from the existing problem of ISP monopolies. With recent multi-billion dollar acquisitions of smaller providers, large ISPs like AT&T and Verizon have already begun dominating ownership of mmWave bands. Together, these two companies own over 50% of available licensed mmWave spectrum in the U.S.
However, service providers that can’t afford the cost of licensed mmWave bands have another option: the use of unlicensed mmWave bands, such as the 60 GHz V-Band. With 14 GHz of contiguous spectrum available, and commercial chipsets and products already developed for this band, providers can deploy gigabit-to-the-home (GTTH), fixed wireless access (FWA) for nothing more than a minimal cost of infrastructure. Thus, the unlicensed 60 GHz V-Band offers service providers an excellent opportunity to offer competitive gigabit services.
We will soon be publishing a white paper on behalf of a client on 5G Fixed Wireless Gigabit Services Today- An Industry Overview, stay tuned!
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There have been recently a lot of announcements around improving the residential Wi-Fi play. These innovations are happening on two fronts. The first is better coverage through mesh networks or easier-to-add access nodes. The second is by offering network based services such as security or parental controls through Wi-Fi routers.
Mesh Networks in the home
Mesh networks aims at solving the problem of coverage, largely within the home. The concept of mesh networks is all but new. IEEE 802.11s is an IEEE 802.11 amendment for mesh networking, defining how wireless devices can interconnect to create a WLAN mesh network. Wireless mesh network device (Mesh STAs) form mesh links with one another, over which mesh paths can be established using an ad hoc mobile routing protocol. A key aspect of this architecture is the presence of multi-hop wireless links and routing of packets through other nodes towards the destination nodes.
In the traditional approach to mesh, hops introduce latency, and reduce throughput. Several vendors are trying to provide their own secret sauce to solving the coverage/capacity trade-off. Read More
Artificial intelligence or AI for short has been described variously as a threat to humanity, a boon to economies, and many other things in between. All valuable technologies solve a pertinent problem. Until recently, Artificial intelligence (AI) and its favorite children, machine learning and predictive analytics, have had little impact on the world outside of academia and science-fiction. Now, AI is poised to help transform the processes and cost base of commercial organizations, and to change the way people interact with one another and the world. Read More
Whether on cellular or Wi-Fi networks, customers want the best connected experience at the best price. They expect the same quality of service no matter what network they are connected to. Carriers need to respond to that fundamental requirement by implementing consistent quality of service (QoS) mechanisms across various networks in order to satisfy their end-users. We define here quality of service as connection having high throughput, low latency, little packet loss and secure, resulting in a better quality of experience for the end-user. There has been good evolution on industry standards in recent years that allow a client device to seamlessly and securely connect to Wi-Fi hotspots broadcasting in unlicensed spectrum.
Why spectrum sharing?
Commercial access and use of spectrum has traditionally been authorized in two ways: either through individual licenses or in accordance with license exempt (unlicensed or ‘commons’) rules. It is believed much of that spectrum is lightly used or even not used. At a time when most observers believe people, organizations and businesses will need vastly more Internet and communications capacity, that is a waste of scarce resources. To move incumbent users to a new frequency band is also a very costly and time consuming proposition. Thus, spectrum sharing offers a cheaper and quicker way to maximize use of scarce resources.
There is a growing number of 5G skeptics that are engaging on a 5G vs WiFi false debate concluding that 5G is not needed as Wi-Fi is available now and provides all that is needed. I don’t share the over-simplified arguments about 5G from of the old-fashioned WiFi vs 3GPP.
The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), in partnership with Maravedis-Rethink, has published its Annual Industry Report for 2016, revealing that the Internet of Things (IoT), the hyper-dense network and 5G will not be economic or practical without the convergence and coexistence of licensed and unlicensed technologies.