Our mobile future will be driven by WiFi

If you live in a place where mobile data is at a premium, then you’ll know all too well how important WiFi access is.

It should come as a relief then to learn that WiFi networks will carry almost 60% of smartphone and tablet data traffic by 2019, reaching over 115 000PB (Petabytes) by 2019. That’s compared with under 30 000PB this year — representing almost a four-fold increase.

That’s according to new insights from Juniper Research.

The research also found that global mobile data traffic generated from devices including smartphones, feature phones and tablets forecast to exceed 197 000PB in 2019. Smartphones will account for nearly twice as much traffic as tablets in that period.

Developing markets such as the Indian Subcontinent are forecast to witness higher growth rates and increased market share of the total mobile data traffic over the next five years; with operators in India already witnessing close to 100% y-o-y growth in data usage. Despite that, North America and West Europe will together account for over 50% of the global mobile data being offloaded in 2019.

All of that data, provides an inkling of how important the move to WiFi could be. The mobile insights company reckons that mobile data offload, (data migration from a mobile network to a Wi-Fi network), offers several key benefits to industry stakeholders. Offload, it says, not only addresses the issue of patchy coverage, but also has the potential for the creation of new services such as VoWi-Fi (Wi-Fi Calling) and to increase the usage of existing 3G/4G services.

The company does however caution that Wi-Fi offload brings challenges to Operators of effective deployment and ROI (return on investment). “Operators need to deploy own Wi-Fi zones in problematic areas or partner with Wi-Fi hotspot operators and aggregators such as iPass and Boingo”, added research author Nitin Bhas.

Another massive growth area, it says, comes in the shape of operators converting residential customers to community hotspot providers, especially in the US. It cites WiFi service provider iPass, which says that there were nearly 40-million community hotspots in 2014 and expects this to more than double this year to nearly 90-million.

It’s not just the case in developed economies either. In South Africa, for instance, NGOs such as Project Isizwe are working to provide free WiFi to whole municipalities. Others have followed suit, with some even offering free WiFi on the country’s minibus taxis.



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