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Installed base of Wi-Fi devices grew to nearly 7 billion in 2016, driven largely by increasing smartphone adoption. Higher throughput, interoperable and backward compatible industry standards (from IEEE and backed by the Wi-Fi Alliance), other performance improvements as well as technical capabilities for operators including Passpoint and voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi), have helped drive this. Homespots and low cost hotspot deployment have increased the total number Wi-Fi areas (hotspots + homespots) from less than 30 million in 2013 to 85 million in 2016, with expectations of 113 million for 2018.
Customer retention and acquisition is the most pervasive and is relevant from mobile only through integrated and fixed only operators, with the potential to reduce ~20% of revenues which are typically spent on retaining and acquiring subscribers.
Wi-Fi calling or VoWi-Fi is very attractive for mobile only (and mobile mostly) operators, providing multiple benefits in addition to boosting indoor coverage, including countering OTT providers, leveraging IMS and VoLTE investments and supporting 2G and 3G spectrum liberation. VoWi-Fi is also fundamental to Wi-Fi first MVNOs and is an attractive option for fixed-mobile operators.
Wi-Fi offloading provides strong opportunities for fixed-mobile operators in particular to reduce costs and is fundamental to the fixed-MVNO operator business case. For predominantly mobile networks offloading can justify Wi-Fi network investment, particularly where there are constraints in providing cellular capacity/coverage but costs have to be minimized.