Please contact:
David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
or via email at:
Carrier Wi-Fi Roaming: Old Dog, New Tricks
Roaming has been around almost as long as cellular, and more than once it has periodically disrupted the mobile industry, as well as rest of telecom. Case in point: AT&T's Digital One Rate, whose predictable pricing a flat monthly fee instead of extra fees based on time, distance and place was a milestone in convincing people to use their mobile phone as the primary or only phone. Landline hasn't been the same since.

Roaming is poised to shake up mobile and the rest of telecom again, this time with the aid of Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi roaming isn't new, nor is the role of mobile operators in facilitating it. For example, 10 years ago, AT&T Wireless and Sprint announced their first reciprocal Wi-Fi roaming agreement. AT&T customers could use their user IDs and passwords to log into five Sprint airport hotspots, while Sprint subscribers could do the same at two AT&T airport hotspots.

Wi-Fi is also evolving into a way to enable international roaming. One reason is because LTE's band fragmentation 40-plus potential bands, roughly half of which are currently in use makes international roaming a challenge for operators and customers alike. Another reason is because the EU's recently regulatory changes have reduced retail cellular roaming rates but not operators' cost of providing that service.

For MSOs, building a Wi-Fi network is cheaper than building a cellular network, if only because Wi-Fi doesn't require them to spend billions on spectrum licenses. But for MSOs and other owners of Wi-Fi networks, Wi-Fi also can be a money maker via inbound roaming revenue.these visions and eventually translate them into a practical, working system that can be produced and deployed profitably.

For enterprise customers, another reason for going with a paid Wi-Fi service is financial. Companies with a significant number of road warriors could contract with a Wi-Fi service to avoid big cellular data bills, especially when roaming abroad. Additional savings can come if the Wi-Fi plan has better rates than what employees could get on their own by paying with a credit card for an hour's or days' worth of service and then putting those charges on their expense report.

Carrier Wi-Fi Roaming: Old Dog, New Tricks identifies and analyzes key issues driving and inhibiting the market for carrier Wi-Fi roaming. The report is based on interviews with a representative sample of companies in the ecosystem.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (4gltei0614_toc.pdf)
For end users, Wi-Fi offload historically was attractive partly because it often was faster than 3G. So, in theory, Wi-Fi offload should seem like a step down compared to LTE, to the point that some users elect to stay on cellular. But in practice, that doesn't appear to be happening. One reason is because most operators don't offer LTE on a flat-rate, unlimited-use basis. And because LTE is so much faster than 3G, it's easier for customers to quickly burn through their bucket of megabytes or gigabytes. As a result, many mobile operators say LTE customers frequently take advantage of Wi-Fi when it's available so they'll have enough LTE data when Wi-Fi isn't available. The following excerpt shows how Wi-Fi offload will vary by cellular generation in 2018. For comparison, 54 percent of 4G traffic was offloaded in 2013.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Total pages: 12
To view reports you will need Adobe's Acrobat Reader. If you do not have it, it can be obtained for free at the Adobe web site.