Telcos face $18bn bill from shabby Wi-Fi management, says report

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Mobile operators stand to miss out on $18 billion (€16 billion) by failing to properly manage their Wi-Fi assets, a new study has claimed.

According to a report by XCellAir and Real Wireless, operators are failing to optimise their Wi-Fi offering by neglecting spectrum management. This is posing a particular issue in dense urban areas, where interference between access points is resulting in a “sub-optimal” experience for users.

The result is “underused and inefficient” Wi-Fi that cannibalises network capacity, the report concluded.

Simon Saunders, Director of Technology at Real Wireless, said: “Carrier Wi-Fi technology is central to supporting most global 4G, and ultimately 5G, network architectures to deliver the best possible user experience. This is especially important in dense urban areas. 

“It is therefore critical that operators take action to ensure Wi-Fi does not become the weak link and prevent service differentiation.”

The report noted that Wi-Fi was crucial for operators hoping to monetise new customers through quad-play offers. However, it added the unregulated nature of Wi-Fi created a “Wild West” scenario that resulted in a lack of proper spectrum management, and therefore poor service.

Narayan Menon, Founder and CTO, XCellAir, said: “It’s important that operators don’t see unlicensed spectrum as unmanageable spectrum. Wi-Fi offload is already a major technique for operators to increase the capacity of data that they can deal with – but it has been used more as a ‘sticking plaster’ than as an integral part of the network.

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“For Wi-Fi offload to be truly valuable, the customers’ quality of service needs to be just as good as it would be on the cellular network, rather than a second-class network customers are stuck with when data demand is high.”

The report by XCellAir and Real Wireless was based on an analysis of 250 Wi-Fi access points in Montreal, Canada.

Of those surveyed, it found that 92 percent did not adjust their operating frequency regardless of how badly performance was affected by interference.

It also found that, on average, two channels worth of bandwidth equating to a total of 100MBps went used at any time.

Menon added: “Operators must consider unregulated and unlicensed spectrum as another asset in their radio network, and must manage it appropriately or fail to maximise its revenue and service potential.”