In the public realm, Hotspot 2.0 will become the de facto standard for public access and hospitality Wi-Fi, enabling end-users to seamlessly and securely roam on Wi-Fi networks. Now that we have Hotspot 2.0 support in all major mobile and laptop operating systems, Hotspot 2.0 deployments will accelerate by service providers and hotel brands.
Carrier Wi-Fi calling, which allows users to make and receive phone calls using a Wi-Fi network instead of the traditional mobile network, will be one driver for this. Unlike services such as Skype and Hangouts that require users to download applications prior to making calls, Wi-Fi calling lets users use their actual mobile phone numbers to make and receive calls. This provides users the connectivity they require to make and receive calls where cellular coverage is insufficient.
Innovations in Wi-Fi and Cellular Cross-Pollination
The biggest innovation will be in the area of Wi-Fi + cellular cross-pollination and convergence (802.11ax, LAA, LWA). Wi-Fi and cellular are the two most successful wireless technologies in existence and have complemented each other for years. Now they seem to be getting engaged. And it couldn't come at a better time as demand for wireless capacity is at an all-time high.
Other possibilities include:
- Mainstream use of analytics to drive user experience, business process optimization and monetization;
- Cloud interconnections and service chaining of networking services to seamlessly tie together best-of-breed technologies;
- Secure, manageable and scalable IoT platforms that leverage multiple sensor types and wireless protocols to provide business intelligence for enterprises and cities; and
- Continued virtualization of networking services to enable service providers to more efficiently scale and more quickly roll out new services.
Blurring of Traditional Distinctions
Many of the traditional distinctions in the wireless industry will be "blurred" due to technology, regulatory and business advances. Blurring will happen between: licensed and unlicensed; service provider and enterprise; and, public versus private. Specific advances that will affect these include: unlicensed LTE, 802.11ax, Wi-Fi calling, enterprise IMS and WebRTC, CBRS, private LTE and Hotspot 2.0.
New business models will evolve to monetize "free" Wi-Fi. Traditionally, monetizing free Wi-Fi meant charging for WLAN usage. In the coming year, we will see more organizations leveraging Wi-Fi and location analytics to monetize their wireless networks. Businesses can utilize these data to gather trends on customer behavior and Wi-Fi usage, which can drive business strategies.
Web-scale content companies (social media, search, hosted services, etc.) will launch some very-large-scale Public Access Wi-Fi projects in developing markets. We also expect an acquisition or merger between a Tier 1 MSO and a Tier 1 MNO.
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