Wi-Fi, the global network of choice, has invaded the technology regime for the next generation networks. Most of the devices we use today are Wi-Fi enabled and even on the most advanced 4G handsets, 78% of the data is consumed over Wi-Fi. Simply put, Wi-Fi has become the priority network for users.
Moreover, with an aim of developing the cities across the globe into smart cities, the government and city municipal authorities are also looking to deploy or partner to offer Wi-Fi connectivity across the cities. By 2018, it is predicted that there will be nearly one Wi-Fi hotspot for every 20 people on earth. This compares to one hotspot for every 150 people today. Definitely there will be a global Wi-Fi hotspot phenomenon. Service providers are demystifying and exploring the untapped business opportunities around public & city wide Wi-Fi, however, there are several barriers to wide adoption of public Wi-Fi. A few to mention:
Privacy and security concerns – Users fear of losing their confidential and personal information over public network as the name suggests open and public Wi-Fi unlike private network with secured password. This calls for a tenable authentication and authorization mechanism with two layered security. Moreover, every country has a telecom regulatory mandate of providing One Time Password (OTP) to the users before enabling them with the Wi-Fi services. This makes the access more secured.
Delay in login procedures – As per existing model, a user avails an OTP via SMS in order to access public Wi-Fi services. But sometimes due to heavy cellular congestion at public places like airports, railway stations, busy markets often delivery of the OTP is delayed. At times, the login steps are too complex for user to understand with multiple hops of screens. This interrupts the data experience for user and defers consumer from using Public access. To overcome this, differential login options can be offered to users including a fixed User ID / Password for ISP own customers, OTP based temporary login for ad hoc users, voucher based access etc.
Access during roaming – It is estimated that up to 70% of international travellers do not use traditional mobile services, instead often relying on Wi-Fi networks to stay connected while traveling abroad. In developing countries, still there are log-in problems faced by foreign tourists when they try to obtain an OTP by SMS using their home country’s ISD code and mobile number. At present in certain countries there is no explicitly defined criterion on whether the OTP can be sent to a foreign mobile number. However, there are options of purchasing Wi-Fi roaming cards through international Wi-Fi roaming aggregators like Boingo, iPass to access Wi-Fi services.
Discovery of available Wi-Fi networks – Many a times user is not aware of Wi-Fi facility available at a particular location, hence failing to utilize the services. The industry is working on overcoming this concern. Passpoint certification launched by Wi-Fi Alliance based on Hotspot 2.0 specification using IEEE 802.11u, is designed to automatically discover and select networks based on user preferences, provisioned operator policy and network availability. However, the automated login process can work only in circumstances where both the wireless device and the access point support the 802.11u standard.
Cost of access – As Affordability and social inequality represent the primary obstacles to urban connectivity; one of the biggest question which revolves around the users if there will be any hidden cost for accessing Wi-Fi. In Indian context, comparably with cellular network the cost / MB estimation for data usage over Wi-Fi will be 10 times less.  Public Wi-Fi usually comes as a freemium model where user gets free access for specific time duration/data and choose to pay a premium price to get additional access, which again depends on the business model adopted to roll out Public Wi-Fi.
With Wi-Fi becoming the most accessible technology, there is always a few teething issues, but with service providers making the right choice of the Wi-Fi Service Management Platform (SMP), it can easily help to overcome the Public Wi-Fi barriers. For more information, Click here.
 – TRAI Consultation paper on Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks, 13th July, 2016