While global mobile data traffic and smartphone usage are growing exponentially, mobile subscribers are typically forced to restrict data usage when traveling abroad, either due to connectivity issues or high international mobile roaming costs.
The current limitations of mobile connectivity for global travelers has meant that Wi-Fi has become the connection of choice at airports, hotels and other tourist hubs, that is, wherever hotspots are available.
Not surprisingly then, the Wi-Fi hotspot market size is likely to reach $3.5 billion by 2023, according to Infonetics Research. According to Cisco VNI Mobile, 2017, globally, total public Wi-Fi hotspots will increase from 94.0 million in 2016 to 541.6 million by 2021.
This is a missed opportunity for CSPs to provide a seamless customer experience at home and abroad.
Source: Infonetics Research, Carrier Wi-Fi Equipment 2015
Wi-Fi Roaming Opportunity
With Wi-Fi Roaming, international travellers can use their SIM cards to authenticate themselves to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot, access data and make voice calls over Wi-Fi networks without incurring any roaming charges. To put it simply, Wi-Fi roaming enables international subscribers to break out locally.
For CSPs, Wi-Fi roaming can offer multiple benefits:
• Retain customers by offering them seamless user experience during international travel
• Gain additional revenue by charging subscribers both for cellular as well as bundled Wi-Fi packages
• Expand their footprint by partnering with global operators and enhancing reach to international network customers
How International Mobile Roaming Works
Source: International Roaming Report, GSMA
Sterlite Tech, a global technology leader in digital networks and telecom and networking software solutions, provides a robust international Wi-Fi roaming platform for CSPs which integrates seamlessly with third-party components in the partner network.
This solution helps CSPs:
1) Create Wi-Fi roaming data plans
CSPs can create Wi-Fi data plans attached to subscribers’ mobile services. Per the data defined in the Wi-Fi plan, subscribers travelling to another country can seamlessly connect to the partner network and access Wi-Fi at a lower cost.
2) Integrate with partner CSP network
The solution can help manages user authentication, billing, data management, and partner settlement transactions with simple integration and configuration processes.
3) Leverage existing Wi-Fi Hotspots
CSPs that have already invested in Wi-Fi infrastructure locally can enhance their reach to international roaming customers by offering them the same level of service quality as they are offering to native subscribers. It helps in additional revenue generation as well as gaining the reputation of being a global brand.
4) Support different traffic and devices
The solution can support both SIM-based and non-SIM based devices, simplifying seamless connectivity between devices and networks. The QoS and service experience is also enhanced.
5) Ensure subscriber satisfaction
Subscribers who are sensitive about high data roaming charges can actually get a relief and stay connected to friends, family and colleagues without interruption. In fact, the Wi-Fi network will remain available even where there is no mobile connectivity, greatly enhancing subscriber satisfaction.
As the chart below shows, offload traffic from both mobile devices and Wi-Fi-only devices together will account for 47% of total IP traffic by 2020. As the demand for Wi-Fi on the move increases, Sterlite Tech International Wi-Fi Roaming solution can help CSPs partner with other local operators, enhancing their reach to a wider subscriber base.
Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2016–2021 White Paper
There is a definite move towards wireless connectivity becoming seamless with wired networks to offer a seamless user experience. It is essential now more than ever that CSPs step up to plan future network deployments which will create an adaptable environment that can handle the huge of onslaught of smart devices and VR/AR applications.