Data-offloading is used to remove traffic from congested GSM / 4G networks and it through WiFi networks. Mobile providers set up a network using outdoor WiFi access points. When th providers customer is in the location using internet services they automatically connect to the providers WiFi network. All traffic is sent and received via WiFi reducing the load on the GSM network - data-offloading to WiFi.
Where is Data-Offloading used.
In London Ruckus and O2 set up the service in 2012 supplying high- capacity small cell service throughout London. It was designed to provide fast reliable connection where it was needed. What was actually going on was that the GSM services in London where under pressure. This was because Smartphone sales had jumped and still continue to grow today. This made Data-Offloading a perfect choice as it would route internet traffic and relieve the pressure on GSM. All over the world Data-Offloading is being assessed and in the coming years we should see it more and more in cities and large towns.
Why would providers use WiFi for Data-Offloading?
WiFi is cheaper to set up, manage, run compared to the cost of GSM / LTE. Everybody today carries a device with WiFi capabilities. No sim required and kids as young as three know how to connect to WiFi. For the provider the focus we would say, is to reduce costs of deployment and meet customers needs. If the provider can find a cheaper more reliable and easier way to give their customer service the chances they will retain that customer. If you look all around the world or even closer to home Virgin media (UPC) set up a network of home WiFi routers. If you have an account with them. and you can go to a friends house who also has an account you will automatically connect UPC WiFi using your own account. Businesses are starting to see that they have to give greater value for your buck! They are Data-Offloading your data through your friends router, giving you additional value with their service.
Where do we think this could go!
We can and will see Irish companies setting up small cell WiFi systems around cities in Ireland in the coming years. Data-Offloading all the traffic via WiFi and reducing demand on the GSM / 4G network. As each company deploys these systems the others will follow. The revenues from contracts are reducing and data offloading will give providers an opportunity to provide what is required, and to where it is mostly used. Soon even calls will use data-offloading similar to Viber and Skype and we can see the providers around the world going this route. Over time with the development of LTE U we should start to see the access points change. Early signs show that WiFi will co-exist with LTE U. We feel that providers are still unsure about LTE & LTE U. WiFi is and has been successful in adapting and meeting demand.
Is there an opportunity here?
We believe that if the providers start setting up small cells the next step is to build a network. Data-Offloading will start to become the norm. It is far cheaper to acquire locations already set up where a high volume of users exist. County council WiFi networks in villages and towns and large public areas like sports stadiums. The providers could offer the same service to the location users that is already in place and allow the providers customers use the service also. Adding value to the providers existing customers making everyone happy. We wouldn't be surprised if interest is shown toward privately owned WiFi networks. Seasonal traffic restricts GSM investment returns making expansion in GSM network non profitable. WiFi networks that are already set up in Zoos, public buildings and holiday locations like, Mobile Home, Caravan & Camping Leisure Parks may attract providers to buy in the future.
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