Wi-Fi, a technology distrusted by mobile operators a few years back, is making a comeback as an off-load mechanism for mobile networks with the Wi-Fi Alliance, the Wireless Broadband Alliance, and the GSM Association pushing for standard specifications like Hotspot 2.0 and NGH specifically tailored for carrier integrated Wi-Fi, allowing carriers to treat Wi-Fi as an integral part of their current network footprint.
By making ANDSF (a 3GPP standard) an intrinsic part of NGH, the GSMA, and WBA are creating a framework which will transform Wi-Fi’s role in cellular networks. “Successful and speedy implementation of ANDSF in NGH is critical to the growth of Carrier Wi-Fi,” says Nick Marshall, principal analyst, mobile networks.
Hampered by a lack of standards, ABI Research believes that carrier Wi-Fi equipment sales will grow almost ten times from about 650 thousand access points in 2012 to almost 6.8 million in 2017 as these new standards roll out.
ABI Research also believes that this growth will be moderated by the availability of suitable backhaul, availability of electrical power at the installation sites/ease of installation, operator acceptance of Wi-Fi, and the effectiveness of network management systems in controlling very large networks of Wi-Fi access points.
“There are many challenges to be overcome for an operator when considering deploying Wi-Fi as an off-load mechanism with operator enthusiasm for and acceptance of Wi-Fi not yet a given,” comments Marshall.
With this move into the carrier Wi-Fi segment, Cisco and Ruckus will encroach on market territory currently held by the traditional mobile equipment infrastructure vendors like Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, and Alcatel-Lucent.
Conversely these traditional mobile infrastructure vendors are also positioning themselves for share gains in market territory currently held by the Wi-Fi vendors. Ericsson will encroach on market territory currently held by the traditional Wi-Fi equipment vendors such as Cisco, Aruba, Ruckus, etc. and ABI Research expects market shares to fluctuate as these competitive dynamics play out over the next few years.
ABI Research provides in-depth analysis and quantitative forecasting of trends in global connectivity and other emerging technologies. From offices in North America, Europe and Asia, ABI Research’s worldwide team of experts advises thousands of decision makers through 40+ research and advisory services. Est. 1990. For more information visit www.abiresearch.com, or call +1.516.624.2500.
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