Many Large Public Hotspot Networks Will Be Carrier Grade (and Use QoS) by 2020

It would have been easy to predict, in advance of the promulgation of network neutrality rules, that such rules would simply push suppliers in other directions, either to improve business models or introduce differentiated new services.

That appears to be happening.

Despite the existence of network neutrality regulations--which apply to consumer access services--it appears quality of service mechanisms are going to be quite a prevalent feature of end user experience on many public hotspot networks, as such rules are enablers of new services and revenue streams.

Some important consumer applications actually benefit from, and under conditions of congestion, might require, quality of service (packet prioritization) mechanisms. And public Wi-Fi hotspot networks now are emerging as one expression of support for such QoS-enabled services.

That apparent contradiction is easy to explain, if one thinks about the matter. Though retail consumer Internet access services are covered by present network neutrality rules, business services are not covered.

A public hotspot is a business service, not consumer service. Whether the buyer is a hotel or coffee shop, or part of a network of public hotspot services, amenity Wi-Fi is a business service, not “consumer Internet access.”

So there is no violation of network neutrality rules, if a public hotspot is used to support QoS-enabled services such as carrier voice.

Juniper Research estimates that Wi-Fi networks will be carrying 60 percent of mobile data traffic by 2019. Cisco estimates that Wi-Fi will handle 63 percent of all traffic that year. And some of those services will benefit from quality assurances.

Separately, says the Wireless Broadband Alliance, among operators with hotspot networks in place, 57 percent have a timeline in place to deploy a next generation hotspot (Passpoint) standard network. By definition, Passpoint employs quality of service mechanisms.

Some 61.5 percent of respondents already have NGH or plan to deploy it over the coming year, while a further 29.5 percent will roll it out in 2017 or 2018.

The dominant business driver is the need to enhance or guarantee customer experience for revenue streams such as  TV everywhere or enterprise services.

The Wireless Broadband Alliance, which created the Passpoint standard, also has promulgated quality of service mechanisms. Wi-Fi Certified WMM added quality of service (QoS) functionality in Wi‑Fi networks.

With WMM, introduced in 2004, network administrators and residential users can assign higher priority to real-time traffic such as voice and video, while assigning other data traffic to either best-effort or background priority levels.

Introduced in 2012, WMM-Admission Control further improves the performance of Wi‑Fi networks for real-time data such as voice and video by preventing oversubscription of bandwidth.

Prioritization of traffic includes categories for voice, video, best effort data, and background data, managing access based on those categories.

And many large hotspot network operators presently believe carrier-grade hotspots will represent 57 percent of all their locations, with carrier-grade hotspots accounting for 90 percent of locations by 2020.

Despite network neutrality rules, support for such apps likely is coming. All the technology tools are there to do so on big Wi-Fi hotspot networks.
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