Whether you are a business owner or an individual WiFi user, it’s essential for you to keep your eyes open and monitor the WiFi industry. Like other industries, is undergoing constant changes. The changes can make or break a business, and that’s why, both small and large businesses need to keep a track of them.
WiFi happened to be viewed in the past as a non-performing alternative to mainstream wired connection. The wireless connection has traditionally been useful only during a cellular network downtime. But that’s not the case anymore. A whole lot of users now prefer WiFi over the cellular connection.
How this change took place? There are several factors that accounted for it. I don’t want to reiterate them because they have already been discussed by various technologists and industry experts. Instead, I’d like to discuss the existing and new trends that are going to make it big in next couple of years.
WiFi for data intensive applications
WiFi is now being widely used for accessing data-intensive applications. Because cellular plans are costly, users consume the bandwidth allocated by their network providers prudently. They refrain from downloading large files and using data-intensive applications. Public WiFi hotspots are a lifesaver for them as they can access bandwidth provided by those hotspots. All that is needed for this model to survive and sustain is the widespread availability of WiFi hotspots. To the delight of the users, the number of hotspots has gone up to 5.8 million in 2015, implying a 350% increase from 2011.
Smartphones/Tablets leveraging WiFi
WiFi doesn’t appeal much to the desktop users. But mobile users, who are into a “nomadic lifestyle” prefer using internet on the go and they need WiFi hotspots everywhere so they could connect to it seamlessly and access the web.
Many industry observers have pointed at the interdependence between the number of WiFi hotspots and the number of handheld devices. In other words, the increasing number of mobile users is directly correlated with more and more WiFi hotspots being set up. Surveys done by third party agencies show almost one-third of Smartphone/Tablet users access public WiFi at least once in a week.
Small business and WiFi
WiFi is no longer competing against cellular connectivity. Mobile carriers have realized the importance of mobile traffic and to meet this demand, they are churning out WiFi bandwidth. Interestingly, the WiFi plans they have devised keeping end-users in mind is being well-received by many small business owners, who own sole proprietorship firms.
This model offers a win-win situation for all; the ordinary users can access the web round the clock, the small businesses can lower their operational expenses and providers can save nearly $5 for every gigabyte they offer.
Benefits of providers
Mobile data offload and bundle access have paved a new way for the small businesses to increase their revenue. They can now invest in WiFi and see their investment churning profit. The most viable models the sole proprietorship firms can make profit from WiFi related investments are managed services and premium access for small and medium businesses and roaming and wholesaling for individual users.
In a nutshell, the benefits are too many for the providers. The easiest model is bundling access to a public WiFi network with home broadband service. This model enables the provider to carve out a niche customer base as they keep the number of customers restricted, and thus, cater to them the best service.
The merging of public WiFi providers
Public WiFi networks were managed independently in the past. But as soon as investors identified the benefits of WiFi, they began to consolidate the independent platforms by acquiring them one by one. This way, the providers got the first-mover advantage.
Another line of business that has flourished alongside the predominant providers are the technical solution providers. Providers know very well users will get pissed off if the service loses its standard. The merging between the providers and the technical solutions imported by them not only retains the service quality, but also encourages investors in drove to invest in this nascent yet prodigious model.
A year ago, Hotspot 2.0 was a phenomenon in the WiFi industry. Its relevance is still very much alive, but the craze has somewhat settled down. A US-based mobile internet company called Boingo released an OTA update that configures the Passpoint settings of iOS 7 so an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch could automatically connect to the WiFi network of an airport.
Over the last year, the Hotspot 2.0 has evolved to an extent that it can now overcome a number of connectivity hassles. Now, it allows a handheld device to connect to a public WiFi network through a secure WPA2 connection. The authentication process takes place in the cloud. Switching to Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) is fairly easy. The network provider just needs to install NGH software in its access point.
Consumers appreciate guest WiFi networks because of flexibility. Retail shops offer WiFi connection so their customers can access the web after walking into the store. In-store and guest WiFi networks not only provide consumer flexibility but also store consumer details, which are essential for understanding retail trends and business analytics.
Consumers want flexibility in payment options. Many retailers have their point-of-sale (POS) system touch-to-pay feature enabled. Such contactless modes of payment require WiFi connection. Hence, WiFi paves the way for consumer flexibility.
This is the newest of WiFi trends. Mobile carriers in US are taking it seriously. Verizon Wireless has announced its plans to launch WiFi calling in the mid-2015. The question to ask is whether the hardware features are equipped enough to support WiFi calling. The hardware in devices like iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus do support WiFi calling. WiFi calling enables users to give and receive calls using a wireless connection.
The trends discussed above are not all futuristic, some are already taking place. Nevertheless, they all have one thing in common; they can reshape the entire WiFi industry. So if you are an entrepreneur, running a business or a naive user, who wants to avail hassle-free web access, the trends are crucial for you.
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