Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Next Generation of Wi-Fi Debuts in Beijing

I recently had the honor to speak at the Wi-Fi Global Congress in Beijing. As evident by the more than 400 people in attendance, the importance and relevance of Wi-Fi continues to grow.  The Wireless Broadband Alliance now has over 100 members, a doubling in less than 2 years.  The membership includes a mix of leading Wi-Fi, mobile, and broadband network operators; global service providers and media players; as well as technology providers and partners. 

I took away six key messages from this exciting conference:

1.    Next Generation Hotspots is Alive and Well.  One of the most exciting things at the conference was the launch of the live NGH Experience with China Mobile as the host operator and Cisco as the network infrastructure provider.  Attendees with a Samsung Galaxy or iPhone 5 could experience the first ever opportunity to seamlessly and automatically connect to the venue Wi-Fi.  Participants also received valuable conference information and services seamlessly delivered to their mobile device through NGH.  This is just the beginning.  With 15 major carriers (and growing) signed up to deploy NGH, mobile users throughout the world will be able to experience the next generation of Wi-Fi early in 2014.

2.    Wi-Fi Roaming is Becoming a Reality.  Several speakers described roaming as being where cellular roaming was 15 to 20 years ago.  However, with the successful launch and upcoming deployment of NGH, seamless roaming amongst carriers is now becoming a reality.  Indeed, the GSM Association recently approved a Wi-Fi Roaming Annex that will make it easy for mobile operators to support this.  As such, the WBA expects roaming to be fully automated across more than 80% of public Wi-Fi networks by 2018.

3.    Wi-Fi is an Important Part of the Mobile Network.  The world’ largest mobile operator, China Mobile, announced a statistic that made everyone in the audience gasp.  While their extensive Wi-Fi deployment only covers 1% of their geography, traffic over this network accounts for 50% of all of their mobile traffic.  A recent WBA report confirms the importance of Wi-Fi as part of the mobile network, estimating that 22% of all of the network capacity added by Tier 1 MNOs in 2013 will come from W-Fi.

4.    Monetization—Beyond Offload.  As Cisco recently identified in Wi-Fi: New Business Models Create Real Value for Service Providers” operators are learning that, while mobile data offload is important, there are lots of other ways to monetize investments in Wi-Fi.  Many speakers described exciting new monetization opportunities based on advertising, location-based services and enhanced customer experiences.  Examples include, retailers who are using value-added Wi-Fi services to drive more sales and sporting venues using Wi-Fi to enhance the fan experience.

5.    Enterprises Are Becoming Mobile Operators.  Bob Friday of Cisco made the point that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the consumerization of corporate IT are actually turning enterprises into mobile operators.  They now have to ensure mobile connectivity and services to their employees both inside and outside of the office.  As a result, enterprises are now trying to figure out how their Wi-Fi networks integrate or interact more broadly with the SP’s mobile networks.

6.    A New Mobile Network.  Mike Roudi of Time Warner Cable described how, as a non-mobile operator, Wi-Fi offered TWC the opportunity to build a new form of mobile network.  Through building an extensive public Wi-Fi network TWC could now extend its customer relationship outside of the home.  Customers are definitely happy with this new strategy and TWC has the quantifiable evidence of this in reduced customer churn in its core broadband and video services.
The Wi-Fi Alliance predicts that the world will have 7 billion new Wi-Fi enabled devices in the next 3 years.  The Alliance’s CEO summed up the implication of this fact and the phenomenal future of Wi-Fi up best for everyone:  “This is only the dawn.”

View the blog on

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Understanding the Changing Mobile User

The mobile market continues to evolve at a blindingly fast pace. It seems that new faster, sleeker, and more powerful mobile devices are launched every day, with new device categories created almost overnight. The number of available applications to run on these revolutionary new devices is staggering, numbering in the millions. Now you can do everything, from banking and controlling your home thermostat to shopping, entertainment, and printing a boarding pass, all from the palm of your hand. In addition, we now have faster ways to connect these devices to the Internet using 4G/LTE or Wi-Fi technologies.

While service providers are clearly benefiting from the rise of mobility and all the innovations in devices applications they are constantly trying to understand how consumers are using mobility and where the mobile market is heading. To continue to derive business value from mobility, service providers need to better understand mobility from the users’ perspective and translate what they discover into new sources of business value.

To learn more, Cisco conducted a survey of 620 U.S. mobile users to understand their needs and behaviors, use of devices, applications and mobile access technologies, and how they have changed since our 2012 mobile consumer survey.

The study revealed that Americans now own an average of three mobile devices each, up from 2.6 devices in the 2012 Cisco mobile consumer study. Our findings show that the number of smartphone users has grown by 21 percent in just one year to reach 68 percent of the population, at the expense of basic phones. Most remarkable is that the number of tablet owners has expanded by over 90 percent in just one year, with close to four out of ten consumers possessing one of these new devices.  Eighty percent of smartphone owners now use some Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet. In fact, the average smartphone user uses Wi-Fi 44 percent of the time to connect a device to the Internet – a remarkable increase from just one year ago, when one-third of the total smartphone data usage was through a Wi-Fi connection, rather than a mobile network.  Almost all consumers use their mobile devices at home, averaging more than 3.8 hours of usage in a typical day, almost double the time they spend using them at work.  Our research also indicates that LTE and Wi-Fi are not competitive, but that the two access technologies actually appear to be complementary and synergistic. A significant number of LTE smartphone users have actually increased both their total data usage and Wi-Fi usage, after they make the transition to LTE.   Thirty-six percent of LTE smartphone users reported that their total data usage across all devices increased, to some extent or significantly, after they moved to LTE.

The research findings are important, because they can help service providers better understand the rapid changes and emerging trends in the mobile market, identify new business opportunities, and develop robust strategies for winning in mobility.

The complete results can be found at “Understanding the Changing Mobile User?”
This white paper is part of a series presenting 2013 Cisco mobile consumer research findings.  Previous blogs and white papers have highlighted what mobile consumers want from public Wi-Fi.  Future blogs will present insights into opportunities to provide in new localized mobile services.

I look forward to learning more about the changing mobile user and the new world of mobile at the Wireless Broadband Alliance Global Congress in Beijing, November 18th or 21st.  Look out for my blog report from the conference.

Read my blog on