The Battle for Wi-Fi Monetization

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As Wi-Fi becomes part of “densification” with other networks or alone, new business models are slowly emerging to monetize it. These will go far beyond the current situation, in which mobile operators offload data to Wi-Fi, or fixed-line operators access licensed spectrum through MVNO deals. Monetizing Wi-Fi optimally requires a broad approach and a mix of value added services.

With the advance of passpoint and next generation hotspots, service providers can monetize their Wi-Fi networks by delivering a seamless connection to their customers in public venues if their devices are passpoint enabled. This enhancement improves customer experience and reduces churn.

The approach of monetizing Wi-Fi with advertising alone has proven difficult and therefore a combination of offerings is needed to achieve a profitable formula. For example, vendors which historically provided pure Wi-Fi offload solutions have generally broadened their portfolios to include venue management and Wi-Fi Calling, to respond to these complex market needs.

The Wi-Fi SaaS remains a highly competitive business and only those well-funded vendors will survive the slow adoption cycle. Very small players will be able to hang in there by limiting expenditures to the extreme with the hopes of being acquired.

Wi-Fi SaaS vendors come with different pedigrees. On one hand, there are the solution vendors that traditionally served the telco space with Wi-Fi offload and roaming solutions providing the required glue to the telco core network. Such vendors include Alepo, Aptilo, Accuris, Sterlite or FON. On the other extreme are purely cloud-based guest Wi-Fi multi-service platform providers that traditionally served venues and enterprises, including Cloud4Wi, Purple, RaGapa or Ucopia. Each have their set of core competencies upon which they hope to differentiate and scale.

Indeed, this is a volume business above all. The more access points and users using the software, the more licensing revenue. As a result, the main question that keeps solution vendors awake at night, is how to scale and do it fast before depleting their financial resources.

The holy grail for these vendors is to land an exclusive contract with one of the massive OEM vendors or one of the telcos, especially the fixed operators with a large Wi-Fi footprint which will enable them to scale in the hundreds of thousands or millions of access points.

So far this is still an open field where most players have still the opportunity to win a large piece of the pie and the next 2 years will be pivotal to position themselves or die. There is no clear leader yet in terms of market share. Some of the carriers like BT use one solution from vendor A for a certain use case and vendor B for another player.

The telcos attitude towards Wi-Fi has evolved in the last few years. The MNOs have realized they could reduce their OPEX by offloading a portion of the mobile data traffic and embracing quality, seamless and secure Wi-Fi as part of their best-connected experience.

Cable operators especially in the US are the champions of Wi-Fi and expanding both their homespot footprint as well as increasingly SMBs, MDUs and large venues.

Carriers are not the only ones poised to leverage innovation in Wi-FI technologies and networks. Verticals such as hospitality and retail rely heavily on best connected experience for their customers. Across the retail, hospitality, service, leisure, and transport sectors, Wi-Fi has been deployed by venue and network owners as a means of improving the customer experience and increasingly, driving customer engagement and behavioural insights.

Stay tuned as we will soon be publishing our landmark report “Wi-Fi SaaS Platforms Market Trends and Forecasts 2018-2022”

 

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Mr. Fellah, is a Senior Analyst and founder of Maravedis with 20-year experience in the wireless industry. He authored various landmark reports on Wi-Fi, LTE, 4G and technology trends in various industries including retail, restaurant and hospitality. He is regularly asked to speak at leading wireless and marketing events and to contribute to various influential portals and magazines such as RCR Wireless, 4G 360, Rethink Wireless, The Mobile Network, Telecom Reseller to name a few. He is a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) and Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS).

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