The Curious Case of WiFi Monetisation

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At the end of this blog, we answer the following frequently asked questions in addition to other topics:

Q1. What is WiFi?

Q2. What is WiFi 6?

What Is the Current State of WiFi Monetisation?

With an array of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets etc supporting WiFi connectivity, it has truly become a need for operators to invest in harnessing this technology with their cellular networks. Driving this need are almost all major connectivity markets such as travel, hospitality, retail, sports events, entertainment, healthcare, education and more, and hence WiFi is now getting right at the helm of the operator’s strategy to better target its end customer base and establish better relationships with their customer base.

Almost all mobile devices have WiFi as their primary wireless access technology today. New technologies and standards, such as the Hotspot 2.0 hold great promise to improve and simplify the end-user WiFi experience. Even though operators are investing in WiFi to strengthen their bond with their customers, there are doubts on the monetisation part and this is where new age WiFi driven advertising models can carve a new revenue stream for operators. There is no doubt that the WiFi opportunity is massive as analysts have predicted that the WiFi market will touch the $93 billion mark by 2018, according to research firm Markets and Markets.

Over the past many years, WiFi has evolved and now emerged as a truly carrier-grade technology, which is clearly able to manage data, reach out to the subscriber base in an area and most importantly minimize the users need to access data over cell phone service plans, thereby reducing strain on operator’s network. However, there is a challenge as according to various estimates, over 51% of hotspots offer free WiFi and hence customers are less willing to pay for the WiFi service. But this does not mean that WiFi cannot be monetised.

How Then Can WiFi be monetised?

WiFi in Advertising

Actually, WiFi is very special in many ways, as a communication driven technology, WiFi can target hyper-local ads in a unique manner and create revenue generation opportunities for operators. As part of this activity, the service provider can share personalized and relevant offers, offer mobile payment facilities, generate marketing lists, track consumer behaviour and build their brand as well.

It also helps in developing targeted and hence relevant advertising model where users get only those Ads where they have shown close interest levels. When it comes down to monetising WiFi, advertising based on WiFi subscriber access can be a big game-changer for mobile advertising. As a truly next-generation technology, WiFi can provide much more accurate information on user location (typically within 3 to 5m [9.8 to 16.4 ft] or less) this is quite better than the information provided by cellular networks. This calls for much better-targeted WiFi driven advertising. And the use of WiFi is opt-in, which means that customers are ready for accepting advertising rather than the alternative mobile spam model.

And as today’s WiFi has its roots in almost all devices, starting from smartphones, to tablets and phablets, this also means that people access WiFi through larger-screen devices, which can be more-advertising-friendly and hence people are likely to get better advertising experience using WiFi. Owing to these attributes, WiFi-based mobile advertising has already started delivering greater CPM in malls in Canada, Singapore and Dubai.

WiFi and Analytics

In addition to the AD campaigns, WiFi analytics can actually inject a lot of intelligence into how businesses look at their customers and help them better understand their own mobile customers, including what types of customers are using their hotspots, for how long, at what time of day and even where in the venue they are accessing it from. All this information can guide them to build better networks.

On the other hand, with this type of intelligent data, potential advertisers can pinpoint the right users for their brand messages and go another step ahead and offer them exactly what they are ready for, or rather what they are waiting for. This way, a technology like WiFi can be of huge value for operators, businesses as well as end customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is WiFi?

Put simply, Wifi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a Wifi hotspot that people in its vicinity may avail to get access to internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a Wifi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, Wifi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN, that allows for devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since Wifi signals need to carry significantly greater amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

Q2. What is WiFi 6?

WiFi stands for Wireless Fidelity and is also a common name for Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). WiFi 6 is the newest and fastest version of the WiFi 802.11 wireless local area network specification standard. IEEE 802.11ax or commonly marketed as WiFi 6 by the industry body WiFi-Alliance is a major advancement over its previous generation that offers multiple devices to run concurrently on one network without compromising on the data speeds and response times.

The 802.11ax standard was approved by the IEEE on 9th February 2021 is designed to operate between 1 and 7.125 GHz, including the widely used 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. To better understand, WiFi or Wireless Fidelity devices usually translate radio waves into binary code using a technique called QAM ie Quadrature Amplitude Modulation. The older generations of WiFi are capable of 256 QAM ie it could send 8 bits of binary data in a single transmission whereas WiFi 6 is capable of 1024 QAM ie 10 bits of binary data in a single transmission.

This significant increase helps WiFi 6 devices to provide 30% faster speeds than its predecessors. The previous WiFi standards like 802.11/a/g/n/ac used OFDM which meant all of the subcarriers or tones were allocated to a single device at any instance of time. WiFi 5 introduced Multi-user MIMO enabling multiple users on the wireless medium at the same time thereby adding multiple users across different streams with each device using all of the subcarriers.

With WiFi 6, OFDMA can now portion up the individual sub-carriers or tones and these can be allocated to a number of devices. Apart from greater bandwidths, higher data speeds snd lower latencies, WiFi 6 also offers better spectrum utilisation using orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA), Multi-user MIMO support, better power consumption and enhanced security protocols.

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