WiFi offload role not going away

In their more messianic moments, some cellular executives are apt to get carried away and prophesy the end of WiFi since LTE will, apparently, make it unnecessary. That might not be the case though.

According to research undertaken on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (the WiFi industry group) by Maravedis-Rethink, Tier 1 Mobile Operators expect 22 per cent of all their additional data capacity added during 2013-2014 to come from Wi-Fi offload. But by 2018, Wi-Fi offload will still be contributing 20 per cent of additional mobile data capacity with a further 21 per cent coming from small cells with integrated Wi-Fi.

Far from ‘going off’ WiFi, 56 per cent of operators are even more confident in investing in WiFi than they had been the year before, according to the research.

According to Caroline Gabriel, Research Director at Maravedis-Rethink WiFi is going to continue to make a big contribution to the wireless mix and rather than be dulled by LTE will probably be needed even more as users get used to data heavy applications, and continue to demand that they work properly under all circumstances.

“I think history just tells us that the more facilities there are, the more people will use them,” she said. She expects increased adoption by an increasing range of operators, from amenity WiFi providers to cable operators and even a resurgent municipal WiFi scene.

“Naturally when new cell capacity comes available performance tends to be good - until the access network fills up again and users move back to WiFi. I think what we’ve learned is that cell and WiFi are actually completely complementary.”

The report can be downloaded from the Wireless Broadband Alliance website

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