WiFi is a critical part of the consumer experience, as it is clearly the dominant connection in terms of download bytes by mobile consumers. This makes WiFi management an important piece of software that can not be overlooked.
WiFi dominates also corporate broadband, as public WiFi hotspots remain a key feature of service provider networks and together with the enterprise and residential WiFi hotspots, carry the bulk of data traffic.
According to Cisco, 50% of all IP traffic (fixed and mobile) will be carried over WiFi in 2021, while the rest 30% will be wired, and 20% will be mobile.
Monetizing WiFi is a major challenge, as WiFi is expected to be a free, best effort service. WiFi users expect the service to be free and unlimited, and are willing to provide their personal info in order to access it. This is a big challenge for WiFi providers and vendors (like us), as direct charging for the service is not viable.
WiFi providers are seeking means to fund their WiFi investments. Providers are interested in new business models that have three targets: (1) minimize the cost of operating WiFi networks, (2) improve user experience, and (3) find ways to monetize WiFi networks in order to exploit the installed infrastructure and fund new investments.
COVID-19 and WiFi: Even with Covid-19 most operators are investing in new WiFi hotspots. In USA for example telecommunications companies have signed the Federal Communications Commission’s “Keep Americans Connected” pledge. These companies provide free service to students in their coverage areas and/or free public WiFi hotspots that students could access for some portion of each day while sitting in their cars or otherwise being physically isolated from others in the vicinity.
Internet of Things (IoT): The growing usage of mobile IoT devices increases the demand for WiFi controllers that provide centralized management for all access points and other devices used in the Wi-Fi network.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): There are some analysts who point out that the rising popularity of BYOD quickly expand coverage across the enterprise will also increase the need to deploy more controllers. All that in order to simplify the network management and improve efficiency.
WiFi Management Challenges
The Wifi operatros are facing numerous challenges:
Vendor-dependency due to controllers: WiFi operators and enterprises manage their WiFi access points (APs) using controllers. A WiFi controller is a dedicated rack-mounted hardware, installed centrally, that automates access point’s configuration in large networks. Controllers are typically vendor-dependent, and therefore introduce vendor lock-in, while WiFi providers would prefer multi-vendor management solutions.
Cost of scaling up: WiFi operators are trying to improve the customer experience, by installing new equipment or upgrading existing. The hardware and deployment cost is significant, and new cost sharing models are required.
Lack of revenue features: Another significant challenge WiFi operator’s face when launching WiFi networks is getting a return on investment (ROI). The WiFi systems are usually not equipped with revenue features and the classic business model of WiFi does not allow direct charging (service is free).
Lack of insights in performance & availability issues: WiFi keeps users connected and productive. If users can’t connect, WiFi takes the blame, but administrators usually lack tools offering visibility and comprehensive controls. As faster WiFi 6 technology is introduced, better management solutions with integrated analytics will be needed more than ever to better understand if WiFi is delivering the promised productivity and the best possible return on investment.
SDN/NFV -based WiFi Management
An SDN/NFV-based WiFi management system is the best solution to support vendor neutrality. This problem has been identified by many operators, and the need for a complete and modern solution that addresses all aspects of sites has grown. Especially now, that revenues are squeezed and operation costs have become an issue that should be directly addressed. Independent analyst’s point to more Controller based solutions being sold over standalone AP deployments, as IT departments deal with an increase in wireless management challenges that are best served with a centralized management platform.
Reduction in the cost of ownership of WiFi infrastructure for organizations, ease of WiFi infrastructure management and its remote troubleshooting, and quick deployment of networks and E2E value chain visibility offered to organizations are factors fueling the growth of the WaaS market across the globe.
The rapid adoption of the internet and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trends in the education industry has led to the growth of the WiFi as a service market across the globe. The use of WaaS facilitates communication among teachers, researchers, students, and professors, among others to make learning easy. Educational institutions provide cloud-based WiFi services to their students and teachers to access crucial documents, presentations, project files, and other forms of data from remote locations. Apart from this, WiFi as a service also ensures the security and safety of educational institutions as playgrounds, parking lots, sports fields, and stadiums of these institutions are covered by WiFi services.
wifio by Intracom Telecom
Intracom Telecom, a global telecommunication systems and solutions vendorbased in Greece, operating for over 40 years in the market, has developed an innovative WiFI management platform called wifio that is worth checking out. More details about this platform will follow in a new post.