Public Wi-Fi Illustrates Primary Use of Fixed Network as Mobile Backhaul

Global public Wi-Fi deployments reached a total of 4.2 million hotspots in 2013, and will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate  of 15 percent between 2013 and 2018, to exceed 10.5 million hotspots by the end of 2018, according to ABI Research.

Among the global Wi-Fi hotspots, 68.6 percent of Wi-Fi is in Asia-Pacific, followed by 12.3 percent in Latin America, nine percent in Europe, 8.7 percent in North America, and 1.4 percent in Middle East and Africa.

Offload of mobile Internet access traffic is a primary reason for using public Wi-Fi.

“Global mobile data traffic will grow to 190,000 petabytes in 2018, from 23,000 petabytes in 2013,” said  Marina Lu, ABI Research analyst.

That is one reason why many are bullish on use of 5-GHz Wi-Fi as a backhaul solution for mobile service provider small cells. U.S. cable TV operators likewise view Wi-Fi as a major platform for supporting either mobile or untethered access services and devices, on a facilities-based network.

The simple thinking is that if 80 percent of mobile Internet data access is offloaded to Wi-Fi, then just 20 percent of potential mobile data demand might need to be sourced to create a full mobile or untethered network service.

A mobile service then might be able to operate at lower costs, when sourcing capacity from a wholesale provider of mobile access.

Alternatively, it might be possible that an untethered access service that is not billed as supporting full mobile access could be supported by Wi-Fi hotspots.

In Asia-Pacific, China alone has deployed 620,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, of which 420,000 have been built by China Mobile, followed by China Telecom with 128,000 hotspots, and China Unicom with 72,000.

In Latin America, Brazil’s carrier Oi has completed its target of 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of 2013, ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, ABI Research says.

The point is that Wi-Fi--public hotspots, at-home access and carrier Wi-Fi--now functions as a major backhaul mechanism for mobile service providers.
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