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Wi-Fi – The Need for Intelligent Offload

If you stood in a certain point in the easternmost part of the conference building faced west and hoped for the best, then you might, just might get a signal that didn’t drop after 2 minutes of sluggish connection.

On the way home I logged onto the free Wi-Fi network at Nice airport. It was worse. I gave up.

So when I read that analyst firm Juniper is forecasting that only 40% of mobile data traffic will go over cellular networks by 2017 I got a bit worried. If traffic is just going to be offloaded to Wi-Fi to relieve congestion from the cellular network to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot, then what will be the effect on the customer experience? Will they suffer the nightmare scenario that I had in Nice – where service, to put it bluntly, was rubbish? You’ve got to hope not – as customers won’t care if their mobile service slows up because of a congested cellular network or a busy Wi-Fi hotspot. They’ll just know that it takes too long to access Facebook, and as for watching videos – forget it. They’ll blame the operator, and they’ll probably tell their friends once they get a decent connection to Facebook.

The economic arguments for off-loading traffic to Wi-Fi are well known. Research from Senza Fill consulting shows that the total cost of ownership per bit of Wi-Fi is only 10% of 3G and 43% of 4G. But increasingly operators are pushing network and service quality as a main differentiator, and customer loyalty and advocacy (and not new subscriber additions) can be the main KPIs that CMOs are measured on. Also a recent survey of 31,000 consumers by Accenture listed the top reasons that consumers select their mobile internet provider is network quality then coverage, and then cost.

So while off-loading traffic to Wi-Fi can save operators a pile of money on network costs, offload needs to be done in a manner that helps preserve or improve the customer quality of experience (QoE). Thankfully Wi-Fi is evolving and offload decisions can be made with a view of the impact on QoE. New standards such as ANDSF (Access Network and Discovery Function) are changing how operators make offload decisions. Operators can control device offload behaviour such that offload decisions can be based on multiple inputs including customer profile, historical data consumption, tariff plan, device type, time-of-day, location information and a wealth of other network information. ANDSF enables operators’ offload policies to be installed on users’ devices and also to change them dynamically as conditions change. This new approach to offloading traffic to Wi-Fi can help monitor and preserve the customers QoE while helping the operator to enjoy the network savings that offload enables. This should keep the CFO, CMO and CTO, and most importantly, the customer happy.

For more information on Wi-Fi please click here to download the Openet Guidebook: Wi-Fi: Intelligent Offload - Managing and Controlling Wi-Fi Customer Experience

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