From being a technology that just enables access to the Internet at home or in the coffee shop, WiFi is becoming a key enabler for mobile service. With more recent developments in a seamless handoff from WiFi to LTE and vice versa, the source of connection to the Internet should become much more fluid in future.
WiFi is increasingly considered as a solution to many of the mobile quality of experience tribulations experienced by customers and a growing number of mobile service providers are complementing their wireless offering with an automated and seamless connection to WiFi for both data and voice.
Based on a survey of over 5,000 mobile users we conducted for our white paper entitled ‘The 4 keys to shaping quality of experience’ (http://www.hottelecom.com/white-papers/4-keys-to-shaping-QoE.html), an impressive 79% of mobile users said they actively look for a WiFi network whenever possible. 47% search for a WiFi network mainly for their data use and 11% mainly for voice (to use Skype, WhatsApp, etc…).
Of the mobile users who search for a WiFi network, 49% do so to benefit from better quality and 39% use it to get faster download speed. So the fact that such a large number of mobile users actively search for WiFi whenever possible, clearly indicates that they are not getting the quality or pricing they expect from their service providers.
This presents a clear opportunity for mobile service providers to double down on making their service available smoothly and at high quality in all places, while still being able to meet the escalating demand for capacity. Mobile service providers should therefore consider integrating managed seamless mobile/WiFi arrangements to achieve this goal.
If mobile service providers are able to capitalize on the provision of a seamless mobile/WiFi experience to increase quality and coverage, while reducing data usage on their radio networks, they can also extend this capability to voice. Secure voice over WiFi capability could provide a significant improvement in voice quality, especially in poor reception areas, and would also overcome some issues with the radio signals fading rapidly inside buildings. All this is part of the general move for the customer to be offered a service, but not being aware of exactly how that service is being delivered. If it works seamlessly, that is all the customer really cares about.
WiFi Roaming and IPX providers
Mobile operators would gain greatly to extend their WiFi capabilities to their roaming customers, improving the quality, the reach and the cost of roaming from day 1. Roaming customers are very sensitive to the perceived cost of data roaming and the use of managed WiFi networks in the visited country could enable much more cost effective roaming packages, while also allowing the home network to remain in control of the session and any voice calling that is required. This would minimize the need to pay the visited network for roaming privileges further reducing the cost of service.
Although once thought of as a competitor to roaming, access to carrier grade WiFi is becoming a key component of mobile operators’ roaming strategy. Of course, end users have always been able to seek out their own WiFi connections in hotels and airports, but the quality and security can be suspect and the need to remember a login ID and password can be confusing.
WiFi roaming, can be established via bilateral agreements between operators, but in an international context, it would be far easier for this to be offered as a value added service by the IPX provider. This potential role of the IPX provider would be to facilitate the solution commercially and offer a WiFi Roaming hub service. Acting as a trusted intermediary, the IPX provider could also provide the authentication of credentials for roamers with SIM-based devices into WiFi hotspots due to its connectivity to an operator’s subscriber data management platform.
Soon, in more advanced signaling implementations, the decision of when to use the roaming LTE connection and when to use WiFi could also be managed by the IPX provider, on the operator’s behalf, to provide the best quality and most cost effective solution for both the home network and their customer.
VoWiFi, the savior?
A number of industry experts are starting to wonder if VoWiFi and its use by mobile operators to improve their customers’ experience, and its underlying cost without the need to invest in more high cost radio spectrum, may be the savior they have been waiting for.
Since the arrival of 4G and the high quality and bandwidth it offers, mobile operators have increasingly suffered from the cannibalisation of their traffic by OTTs. Voice applications, such as Skype, now work perfectly well on mobile devices at home or while roaming, and a growing number of mobile users are now using these types of applications for their communications needs.
But in a world where carrier grade WiFi roaming is accessed transparently by the user, would be a world where high quality, low cost (if not free) roaming would be a reality. In this world, the need to go through the trouble of using a number of different applications to call different people in your contact list, instead of just using the service offered by your mobile service provider would become obsolete.
A number of mobile operators are starting their journey on this path and vendors are following close behind with innovative applications that enable all this to happen in real time independent of the type of phone or operating system used.
VoWiFi may be the light at the end of the tunnel after all.
If you want more information on IPX, Wi-Fi roaming and VoWiFi, please contact us.