How Airtel, Idea Telecom Operators OffLoad Mobile Data to Wi-Fi & Cells

Mobile Data OffloadingWiFi offloading is being increasingly adopted with heavy mobile data demand in Urban Areas. Given that a substantial portion of mobile traffic occurs inside buildings, telcos are investing/patterning for offloading data to WiFi hotspots.

As mobile and fixed broadband becomes more complimentary, WiFi can do the heavy lifting on data traffic, which can stimulate fixed broadband usage and support total ARPU. This can also be used as a service differentiation tool. But not every telco can do this – fixed-line connectivity is still critical; hence, integrated telcos [Airtel] are better positioned.

Technology that allows for automatic switching between macro networks and WiFi depending on signal strength needs to improve further, which has been an issue in many markets. Telcos haven’t directly focused on monetising WiFi traffic, but instead have (or are) focusing on monetising total data traffic. But monetising WiFi could become a rising focus, we think, particularly for wireless operators, as WiFi networks carry more and more traffic.

Small cells (mostly femtocells) are miniature BTS/radio access nodes that operate in specific licensed spectrum (compared with WiFi, which usually uses unlicensed spectrum) and have a range of a few metres to 1-2kms.

According to NTT DoCoMo, the use of smaller cells and frequencies higher than 3.5GHz will be crucial for future radio access networks. It is developing FRA (Future Radio Access) as a successor to LTE-Advanced to work with spectrum from 3.5GHz to 10GHz and smaller cells in a bid to considerably increase data throughput

Various vendors are promoting the concept of heterogeneous networks (commonly referred to as ‘Hetnet’) to prepare for the 1,000x increase in data traffic. This essentially sees the evolution of small cells in all directions and all technologies (micro, pico,
metro, WiFi, 3G, 4G).

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