Monday, 29 October 2012 00:00
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Service providers tasked on driving business with Wi-Fi

The growing numbers of devices that comes with Wi-Fi enabled solution has prompted the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) to recommend that service providers should consider assisting users to drive their business with more introduction of Wi-Fi devices.

According to the Cisco 2012 mobile user survey conducted by the IBSG, there is an increasing global demand for mobile devices and network connectivity using Wi-Fi and traditional mobile networks.

The study, which also revealed that Wi-Fi is now playing critical roles in meeting the business needs of consumers predicted that Wi-Fi will soon become the predominant access technology for smartphones within two years.

The report, which was presented to  ICT journalist via the Cisco teleconference solution and attended by ICT journalist in Nigeria at the Cisco head office in Lagos highlighted that majority of mobile devices now have Wi-Fi Internet access capabilities.

The teleconference media parley, was presided over by Director, Cisco IBSG Service Provider Practice, Stuart Taylor and Director Cisco IBSG for Emerging Markets, Peter Ford from Cisco office in London and had journalist from Kenya,South Africa,Egypt and Nigeria in attendance.

According to the duo, with the exception of smartphones, Wi-Fi is now the predominant access technology for mobile devices saying, “there has also been an increase in ‘nomadic’ devices like laptops, tablets, and eReaders that almost exclusively connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi”.

The survey revealed that mobile devices are now increasingly used for entertainment stating that almost half of mobile users are consuming all forms of video, music, books, and games on their devices on a regular basis.

The trend, the survey observed is expected to increase as devices become more powerful and networks become faster noting that the mobile access no longer exclusively means using devices while on the road.

According to the IBSG survey, consumers use their mobile devices for more than 2.5 hours at home on a typical day explaining that “people are expecting to increase their home use of mobile devices even more.

“This shift in where people use their mobile devices has seen an increase in the connection through Wi-Fi. Even the majority of smartphone users are supplementing their mobile connectivity with Wi-Fi. With the exception of coverage, people prefer Wi-Fi over mobile to connect their devices. While Wi-Fi is not able to compete with the ubiquity of cellular network coverage, respondents consider Wi-Fi easier to use and more reliable than mobile”.

The survey, which also captured the Wi-Fi hotspots showed that a third of mobile users are taking advantage of public Wi-Fi hotspots on a weekly basis saying the most popular locations are public outdoors, coffee shops, restaurants, and retail stores.

“With publicly accessible Wi-Fi evolving so quickly, people are expecting free Wi-Fi access. The rapidly evolving public Wi-Fi business has significantly changed consumers’ expectations. As a result, today very few the users surveyed are actually paying for public Wi-Fi”, the survey noted.

Explaining further about the growing presence of Wi-Fi hotspots at public places, Ford said there are now Wi-Fi hotspots in trains and busses in the United Kingdom saying that there are still challenges broadband availability.

He however, said that residents in neighbourhoods tackle this problem by sharing their Wi-Fi access with neighbours who in turn give access to those they share with when they roam.

He noted that a major cause of service disruption and poor quality of service in the United kingdom is the stealing of copper of fibre cables that are buried in the ground adding that high cost of broadband access is still an issue.

He said that this Wi-Fi hotspots is purely a private sector service driven only demand and creation services by government can increase supply and bring price down.

He advised that for Nigeria to fully benefit from the arrival fibre cables that are resting on the shore, services that require broadband uses as well as other business needs must be addressed.

 For instance, he said that it is not economical for the British Telecoms go the villages in the United kingdom adding that in the village where he lives, which a trains ride to London there are no Wi-Fi hotspots.

Taylor in the survey disclosed that there is a growing preference for Wi-Fi to mobile for connecting mobile devices saying that if given a choice between access networks, the survey highlighted that mobile users choose Wi-Fi over mobile across all network attributes, with the obvious exception of coverage.

“Also worth noting is that across most attributes, one-quarter of consumers see no difference between the two networks. While Wi-Fi cannot compete with the now nearly ubiquitous coverage of cellular networks, it is remarkable that consumers consider Wi-Fi easier to use and more reliable than mobile”, he said.

He noted further that despite the technical superiority of cellular mobility in the area of security, people clearly do not make this distinction adding, “as is often the case with technology, there seems to be a huge gap between the technical reality and user perception across the key distinguishing attributes of the two access networks”.

The results of the Cisco IBSG survey indicated that the market is on the verge of a “New Mobile” paradigm in which Wi-Fi and mobile networks are seamlessly integrated and indistinguishable in the mobile users’ mind.

For instance, almost 60 percent of consumers surveyed were “somewhat” or “very” interested in a proposed offer that provides unlimited data across combined access networks for a flat monthly fee.

Some of the benefits consumers noted were lower overall costs and unlimited data, signalling the end of uncertainty about overage charges, however, more than one-quarter of people liked the location flexibility, reliability, and seamless transfer between networks that this proposition offered.