Customer Retention Drives Mobile Operator Interest in Carrier Wi-Fi

Customer retention likely is more important than traffic offload as a motivation for deploying carrier-owned Wi-Fi hotspots, a survey sponsored by the  Wireless Broadband Alliance, and conducted by Maravedis-Rethink has found.

Fully 70 percent of respondents said a key motivation for deploying carrier Wi-Fi was to improve customer experience, seen in turn as a way to increase subscriber retention.

Some 41 percent of respondents said improved customer experience was the single most important driver to invest in next generation hotspots, ahead of the value of offload.

In both 2013 and 2014, large venues such as stadiums and shopping malls were among the biggest drivers of traffic growth said over 50 percent of respondents, followed by travel hubs such as airports (cited by 48 percent) and connectivity on board transportation (41 percent).

The survey also found that Wi-Fi roaming will continue to be an important way to extend coverage, especially internationally.

In the 2013 survey, 30 percent of the hotspot operators also had roaming deals to supplement their networks, while in 2014, that percentage has risen to just over 50 percent.

Among those surveyed, there was a total base of over 2.8 million directly owned and managed hotspots, and an average of 42,000 locations. When roaming was included, the carriers could provide a total of 8.85 million locations between them, or an average of 193,000 each.

With regards to “next generation hotspot” (the WBA program for seamless authentication between Wi-Fi and carrier networks) deployments, about 44 percent of respondents expected to have deployed at least parts of the platform by the end of 2015.

By the end of 2016, another 31 percent of those with active plans for NGH expect to have NGH deployed.

Some 35 percent of respondents are charging for roaming access, or providing tools and platforms to enable such roaming.

The study included 210 respondents, or which 45 percent were mobile service providers.

The majority of the responses came from North America (39 percent) and Europe (26 percent), followed by Asia-Pacific (19 percent).
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