WiFi offload to grow 16 times from 2011 to 2016

By : |July 19, 2012 0

AUSTIN, USA: Once a pariah among wireless data networks, WiFi has emerged as a legitimate ‘other network’ option for mobile operators.

Granted, subscribers have to be within about 300 feet of a WiFi hotspot, or within a metro WiFi hotzone, however, carriers are looking hard at WiFi offload as a way to not only provide their customers with high-quality, reliable wireless data, but also to relieve some of the congestion on their 3G mobile data networks.

Today, the predominant form of WiFi offload is user-driven. That is, an end user chooses a WiFi connection over his/her mobile broadband connection. This might be because of coverage or because they want a faster connection or because they are rationing usage to avoid hitting their monthly mobile data plan allowance.

iGR expects the other type of WiFi offload — carrier-driven — to take greater hold. Carrier-driven offload involves the mobile operator actively switching 3G/4G traffic to a WiFi network. The main issue here is technology; operators have to have the right equipment both in the network and in handsets.

Today, the necessary technology is just starting to emerge. iGR expects it to be far more prevalent By 2016.

iGR’s new report forecasts the amount of data traffic offloaded from 3G/4G mobile broadband networks to WiFi in two categories of WiFi usage: WiFi offload and WiFi only. WiFi offload includes traffic that would flow over 3G/4G normally, but instead goes over WiFi by end user and/or carrier selection. iGR forecasts a 16x growth in WiFi Offload from 2011 to 2016.

WiFi only includes connections from devices such as tablets, laptops, e-readers, and handheld gaming consoles that do not have a 3G/4G modem and can therefore only connect over WiFi.

"iGR believes that WiFi data usage will grow strongly over the forecast period," said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR, a market research consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile industry. "Although WiFi offload is a relatively small portion of the overall pie right now, it will grow to be about even with WiFi only by 2016 in terms of gigabytes per month. For the mobile operators, WiFi Offload can provide some relief for congested 3G and 4G networks."

iGR’s new market research report, ‘U.S. WiFi Offload Traffic Forecast, 2011 – 2016: Relief for Mobile Data Networks?’, provides details on WiFi and forecasts two types of traffic, WiFi Only and WiFi Offload, through 2016.

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