The online lifestyle revolution led by data-hungry e-commerce & social media apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Flipkart, Paytm & YouTube along with the explosion of various types of access devices has led to a supply-and-demand gap for wireless data capacity in the mobile networks. This has resulted in patchy coverage, unreliable data speeds & unhappy customers.
To deal with this, mobile operators are forced to either upgrade capacity on their networks by acquiring more spectrum & adding base station towers (at a great cost) or face customer wrath & churn.
Power of Wi-Fi Offloading
Wi-Fi offloading is the missing piece for mobile operators to put the capacity puzzle together.
Wi-Fi needs to be looked as an alternative that can be deployed in parallel with the existing base-station network, making more spectrum available for data usage. A mobile customer walking into a Wi-Fi “offloaded” zone will seamlessly migrate from the cellular to Wi-Fi network enjoying high uninterrupted speeds (instead of earlier congested cellular only patchy speeds). Wi-Fi offloading will shift data traffic away from the cellular network and help de-congest it, improve user experience, reduce customer churn, increase consumption of data & the data customer base.
Offloading will especially help in high density zones (commercial, corporate & transportation zones) of metros like Delhi, Bengaluru & Mumbai, where data consumption is zooming.
In fact Vodafone is the first & only operator in India to currently walk the Wi-Fi offloading street & is offering its Wi-Fi app on Android & iOS.
Interestingly, Vodafone & Airtel have formed a JV to jointly explore opportunities in the Wi-Fi infra space, which some say is essentially an effort to check Reliance JIO from taking a lead in the Wi-Fi space. Wi-Fi has to be an integral part of JIO’s 4G strategy, given the usage of high-frequency 2300 MHz band where the signal penetration degrades and causes challenges in providing indoor coverage.
However, Mobile operators need to evolve business-effective models that not only use WiFi offloading networks to cut operational costs & improve customer experience but also use Wi-Fi Hot Spots as a service differentiator & opportunity to generate additional revenue. Setting up standalone Wi-Fi Hot Spots(other than offloading zones) especially in high density & high usage areas will generate not only higher revenues but also ensure monetization & faster ROI (Return on Investment) from Wi-Fi deployments.
Power of Wi-Fi Hot Spots
Mobile companies can ensure market differentiation by way of offering consistent high data speeds for all the devices of customers some of which are only Wi-Fi compatible. In fact, many apps for smartphones and tablets can be used effectively only on Wi-Fi.
Offering Wi-Fi services for random users is a good way of attracting new customers to the network by offering attractive service packages online.
Wi-Fi provides a more accurate user location than mobile cellular, allowing for better targeted advertising opportunities. It enables merchant’s mass engagement with consumers. Consumers can get free WiFi in exchange for purchases or opting to receive digital offers & deals from merchants.
Free Wi-Fi usage for 15 minutes in exchange for watching a promotional video ad can be offered as a basic package. Digital marketers would lap up the opportunity to promote their products, raise brand awareness and generate revenues.
Using data analytics & customer behavior, trends & preference patterns can be tracked and sold to digital marketing agencies & e-commerce players or put to good use by Telcos themselves, what with most telcos having their own digital wallets like Airtel Money & M-Pesa.
By establishing an independent Wi-Fi Hot Spot profit center vertical, Mobile companies (already equipped with infra, expertise & manpower) could bid & pick up large Wi-Fi deployment projects for Government & private entities like Municipal Corporations, Universities, Hospitals, Airports, Railway Stations, Corporate Hubs, Malls & premium residential societies. Various hybrid models ranging from BOT, franchisee, revenue share to Mobile operator owned can be explored on case to case basis.
Once the Wi-Fi Hot Spot networks of Mobile operators are more widespread & popular on the strength of “consistent, always available high speeds”, online bundled data packages for Wi-Fi access across all or select Hot Spot zones can be sold to retail customers. Special bulk offers for Enterprise clients’ mobile employees can be offered.
Widespread deployment of Wi-Fi Hot Spots will also hasten the death of the ubiquitous , mainly CDMA dongle industry and churn high data revenues from this highly profitable segment – especially from the higher ARPU & high data usage zones.
– Sundeep Jauhar is an experienced telecom business professional with extensive experience in building, turning around ,operating and expanding independent businesses