WBA Annual Industry Report 2017/18 – Confidence in investing in Wi-Fi reaches record levels
This year’s WBA Annual Industry Report commissioned from Maravedis comes at a highly significant time for the wireless ecosystem with the vision of a unified wireless ecosystem around the concept of 5G. As user demands for fast, reliable, affordable wireless data continue to rise, service providers are also considering how to expand and transform their business models with new use cases.
As discussed in the 2017/18 Annual Industry Report, the industry trends indicate that 5G, unlike previous generations of standards, will be more than just a cellular radio definition. Instead, it will be a broad platform which integrates multiple radio access technologies (RATs) in unlicensed, shared and licensed spectrum. Current and future evolutions of Wi-Fi and other unlicensed spectrum technologies, such as low power wide area networks (LPWANs), will play a crucial role in extending high quality, high speed, low latency wireless connectivity to many new users and use cases, including the connection of huge numbers of machines and sensors.
Some Industry Survey Results
A portion of the new WBA survey focuses on monetization and business models and the potential there with evolved Wi-Fi and unlicensed spectrum. Whilst standalone services and cellular offload to Wi-Fi remain key services, top of mind as we move towards 2018, respondents say the following areas will be most important to monetization strategies in 2018: location-based services; roaming and marketing analytics.
The coexistence and convergence of Wi-Fi with other unlicensed spectrum technologies is of primary interest to respondents. Future-proofing for organizations tied in deeply with overall confidence in Wi-Fi. When it comes to investing in Wi-Fi, over 80% of respondents felt as or more confident than they did a year ago. 47% felt more confident in a broader look at unlicensed spectrum. In future opportunities, looking at impact on respondents business, Wi-Fi evolution was ranked “high” by 65% of respondents with network evolution and 5G on a similar ranking at 67%, and connected cities was third (55%).
This points to the broadening ways to monetize public Wi-Fi as the platform evolves to be flexible in supporting a range of traffic and usage patterns. In this year’s WBA Industry Survey, the Internet of Things, streaming video and Wi-Fi Calling were identified as the top three drivers of additional traffic, but each of these use the network in a different way. Delivering a network across multiple spectrum bands, with different levels of bandwidth, power and latency depending on the application, is the central aim of Wi-Fi evolution and of 5G in general.
Broadening the theme of monetization, the report identifies several important trends which are helping to enable these new business models. As well as traditional use cases such as consumer data access and Wi-Fi offload – which are still central to many providers – these areas were highlighted as one which would drive near term revenue potential:
- Improving the in-home experience and extending it from internet access and media, to a full smart home
- Enterprise services, which are becoming richer and more efficient via options such as cloud-managed networks and security
- Expansion of the Wi-Fi roaming model, which is a key achievement of WBA programs going right back to its foundation
In all cases, an enhanced user experience is vital to progress, and this is being delivered by developments such as rising adoption of the WBA’s Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) in tandem with the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Passpoint program, which together support seamless authentication and seamless multi-RAT access.
The WBA’s Next Generation Hotspot has jumped in adoption rates, with vendors actively supporting the technology, and the Alliance’s initiatives making it easier to implement. 73% of those surveyed have already implemented NGH or plan to do so by the end of 2018, 13% by 2019, and 14% in 2020 and beyond.
The report provides a detailed analysis of the connected city opportunity for all players in the complex value chain, from citizens to wireless service providers to city authorities. It highlights key services, some of which – like smart lighting – may be ‘leader use cases’; ones which can justify the deployment of new infrastructure, on which further services can be layered. For the Internet of Things (IoT), Wi-Fi, as well as LPWAN technologies are providing a powerful way to connect city infrastructure and devices at low cost and high efficiency.
Enabling true 5G convergence
All these new use cases will be enhanced as wireless technologies continue to evolve their capabilities. New Wi-Fi standards are extending these capabilities – 802.11ax will support high density and better control over QoS. Wi-Fi will be an increasingly integral part of the wider wireless platform in the 5G era and is targeting many of the same use cases as the 5G movement in general. These will be underpinned by seamless, secure and interoperable networks.
Wi-Fi is and will continue to play a central role in wireless and mobility strategies. Deployments are becoming more reliable and secure, and it is becoming crucial for the business model in many verticals. The WBA continues to lead the way in optimizing Wi-Fi technology. Now, some of that work includes looking at how Wi-Fi and unlicensed spectrum generally will contribute to the 5G platform. 5G must take advantage of unlicensed spectrum to support higher data rates, greater device density and new IoT services. Customers are able to use data in new ways, and service providers keep up by finding ways to monetize it.
This year’s report examines these business opportunities in detail, along with the technology and spectrum developments which will enable them. Click here to explore the report, and learn more about how the WBA is helping to lay the foundation for the 5G era.
 For those who have been surveyed who implement and run networks