Wireless Infrastructure Market and Carrier WiFi integration with cellular networks

The wireless network infrastructure market is currently in a phase of transition as mobile network operators seek to address increasing mobile traffic demands amidst global economic uncertainties. This paradigm shift is bringing new challenges and opportunities to wireless infrastructure vendors.

In 2011, global 2G , 3G and 4G wireless infrastructure revenues were $45.9 billion. Signals and Systems Telecom (http://www.snstelecom.com/)  estimates that these revenues increased 8 percent year on year (YOY) reaching $49.7 billion by end of 2012,  primarily driven by LTE investments. However, between 2012 and 2017, the market is expected to shrink to $48.6 billion.  That’s because of the decline in operator spending on  2G and 3G network infrastructure, network management and related software.

Although, the new wave of 4G-LTE macrocell  Radio Access Network (RAN) and core network investments will not be able to compensate the overall declines in 2G and 3G equipment sales, operators are expected to significantly increase their spending in the evolving small cell and carrier WiFi equipment market.   Small cell and WiFi offload equipment will represent a market of $5.4 billion in 2017. Consequently the small cell and WiFi offload market segment is attracting considerable attention from both established vendors as well as startups which solely focus on the small cell market.
However, carrier WiFi will NOT be supported by all operators.  For example, Sprint and Verizon Wireless have no definitive plans to operate carrier WIFi networks.  Market research firm Informa #1 Trend for 2013 was that Wi-Fi will become a victim of its own success

“There will be a shift in operator sentiment away from public Wi-Fi as it becomes evident that the growing availability of free-to-end-user Wi-Fi devalues the mobile-broadband business model. Mobile operators will respond by articulating the value of their cellular networks better, but others not affected by this trend will double down on their public Wi-Fi investments to continue to propel the deployment and monetization of Wi-Fi.”

Based on it’s WiFi/cellular integration demo at the 2013 Mobile World Congress,  Telefonica d’Espagne seems to be 100% committed to Carrier WiFi.  And so is ATT&T  based on their Wayport acquisition in 2008.  AT&T  might be in the best position to provide access to a worldwide Wi-Fi network.  In that scenario, customers would pay a set amount (maybe $5 or $10 a month) for that capability.  The fact that no one has a fixed monopoly on Wi-Fi makes this a difficult trend for mobile operators to control.

Republic Wireless, a mobile virtual network operator, has created a service that primarily relies on Wi-Fi for connectivity and defaults back to the cell network. Republic sells its service for $19 a month, far less than what people pay carriers. Thus, if carriers seek to monetize their Wi-Fi offerings they are going to have to figure out how to create a service that’s better than what most users cobble together on their own.

IEEE ComSocSCV had a great technical meeting debating the pros and cons of Carrier WiFi along with the new features and functions of IEEE 802.11ac.  Presentos will be posted at the archive section of the Chapter’s web site: http://comsocscv.org