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North American Wi-Fi Market: Wi-Fi Everywhere

  • July 2014
  • 16 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2240523


Table of Contents

This report reviews the state of the North American Wi-Fi market, examines the opportunities for growth, and explores the opportunities for non-traditional service providers in this area. This analysis will be of interest to network operators, wireless infrastructure vendors and over-the-top service providers.

Executive Summary
Free Wi-Fi!
Signs saying something similar are to be found in the most mundane locations: everywhere from tailor shops, to shopping centers, and even McDonald’s restaurants. In fact, it is getting pretty hard to find locations where Wi-Fi isn’t available—and if it isn’t where one happens to be, a smartphone can become a Wi-Fi hotspot. In many respects wireless broadband access is becoming an exercise in traveling between Wi-Fi locations.

The beauty of Wi-Fi, of course, is that it utilizes unlicensed spectrum to provide broadband connectivity. It is, therefore, unregulated (at least to the extent that a carrier must have a license to use it); and, because it is built into just about every mobile device, it is a technology consumers know and want.
Wi-Fi (for wireless fidelity) is exhibiting what happens in a market when a useful technology is introduced with an open architecture, low regulation and a clearly definable need. In fact Wi-Fi is one of the most quickly adopted technologies in history.

Now, Wi-Fi is poised to define mobile broadband in a way that was never anticipated when it was originally developed as an alternative to physical wiring in a manufacturing setting. As Wi-Fi continues to evolve, it will achieve levels of penetration that will allow consumers to access the Internet regardless of location.
Pervasive Wi-Fi, though, has been tried before: municipalities have attempted to deploy Wi-Fi infrastructure as a public utility, and have largely failed. These forays into metro Wi-Fi were plagued by bad business models, marginal engineering, and poor performance. Ultimately, early municipal experiments were doomed due to uncertainty in maintaining and managing them profitably.
What is different now?

Quick Summary for Busy Decision Makers
I. Executive Summary
II. Introduction
a. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous
b. It is in the home and also defines a mobility network
c. It is largely unregulated
d. Wi-Fi will define the future of mobile broadband
III. Consumer Wi-Fi Use
a. 80 percent of those who have Internet access also use Wi-Fi
b. But consumers don’t really understand Wi-Fi
c. Implies a need to educate public on Wi-Fi
d. A major use for Wi-Fi is video streaming
e. In the future, Wi-Fi will be key to Augmented Reality
IV. Hot Spot Providers
a. In excess of 70,000 US public hotspots
b. Carriers such as Comcast are expanding their Wi-Fi footprints
V. Impact of Technology Evolution
a. 802.11ac being deployed
b. NGH being developed
c. Ultimately, Wi-Fi will integrate with cellular networks
VI. Impact of Nomadic Broadband Use
a. Branded Wi-Fi is inevitable
b. OTT service providers are the next wireless carriers
c. Such carriers pose great competitive threats to the existing carriers
VII. Last Word
a. Consumers are driving a sea change in broadband consumption
b. Wi-Fi is key to this change
c. Stratecast predicts Wi-Fi will be essential to the future of mobile broadband
CCS 8-15, July 2014 © Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan, 2014 Page 5
For one thing, businesses are coming to realize that providing free access to Wi-Fi allows them to advertise to an increasingly mobile clientele. Providing access to shoppers allows them to insinuate promotional information in a way that consumers don’t mind; and, in many cases, actually like.
For another, Wi-Fi, even without advertising, is a low-cost service differentiator. Just as in another time, when a number of credit card symbols on a merchant’s door implied a place of business where paying for purchases is easy, a Wi-Fi symbol now denotes a place where staying connected is easy.
Wi-Fi is also increasing in capability. New standards are poised to make Wi-Fi behave more like cellular wireless; enabling hand-offs between Wi-Fi sites, and enabling nomadic access between Wi-Fi hotspots using cellular connectivity.
Stratecast believes that Wi-Fi is poised to become a platform for a panoply of new services, including such services as augmented reality and targeted mobile advertising. Sensing opportunity, new carriers will arise to provide networks based on Wi-Fi.

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