Ovum survey shows Wi-Fi offload as a growing part of operators’ infrastructure strategy

Concerns over the rapid growth of mobile broadband traffic are encouraging operators to look beyond the negative revenue implications of Wi-Fi, according to Ovum. Yet, even though Wi-Fi offload is now being included in the majority of infrastructure strategy plans, today’s carrier-grade solutions do not fully meet operators’ needs, warns the global analyst firm.

Findings from Ovum’s new operator survey on Wi-Fi offloading* indicate that many operators are still looking for features not currently available on a large scale. Over half expect session continuity when moving between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, while over 90percent are also looking for a device-based policy solution that would select the best network (3G/4G/Wi-Fi) based on cost, performance, and other policy-driven features.

“Just a few years ago, if one was to ask mobile operators about Wi-Fi, their responses would most likely have been negative, but this has long changed with rising concerns around how to manage the growth of mobile broadband,” says Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst in Ovum’s Network Infrastructure Telecoms team. “Now the issue is how best to build up sufficient network resources to manage Wi-Fi offload.”

The majority of operators expect to work with other hotspot providers to build out their network footprint, according to the survey. Operators are willing to work with what they call “untrusted” or “non-controlled” Wi-Fi networks – for example, free public networks that aren’t controlled by an operator, such as those found at hotels or libraries. Less than half of the operators surveyed said their companies were taking any measure to evaluate application performance before allowing those applications to access their networks.

Although most operators thought Automatic Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) and Hotspot 2.0 were important, only a small minority said they would deploy those solutions prior to their full standardization, even if the vendor said they were fully compliant with the standard.

“What compliance actually means appears to be a big issue here. For example, most respondents answered ‘Don’t know’ when it came to their willingness to deploy pre-standardized compliant solutions. Greater information on what compliance actually means could reduce the number of ‘don’t know’ responses,” comments Schoolar.

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