Wi-Fi's Growing Importance
by Bernie Arnason
Wi-Fi, or wireless local area network, has been a fixture on the broadband scene for quite some time. The technology is pervasive, partly because it’s relatively easy to use and inexpensive to deploy. A good percentage of customers are comfortable with the technology and use it often—many use it daily. Some customers use it and don’t even know they are using it. Given this history, you might think that Wi-Fi’s momentum may have already peaked. Think again.
Its importance will only grow, and broadband service providers should have a handle on how to exploit it, both from marketing and operational points of view. Despite its pervasive nature, Wi-Fi is still growing fairly significantly. Consider some of these market statistics:
- Over 1 billion connected devices, worth approximately $580 billion, shipped in 2012, a 30% increase over 2011. (IDC)
- Wi-Fi equipment shipments grew by 17% in the first quarter of 2013, and the latest version 802.11ac (which supports video streaming) has barely entered the market. (ABI Research)
- During the second quarter of 2013, the amount of data consumed over Wi-Fi was four times the amount consumed over cellular data networks (on average, 2197 Mbps vs. 473 Mbps per month). (WeFI)
- The cable industry is building a national Wi-Fi network called Cable WiFi that will allow roaming for cable broadband subscribers. So far, they have collectively built 150K Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.S.
The amount of connected devices in the home utilizing Wi-Fi is also on the rise with estimates ranging from 5 per household to 12 or more, depending on which research you believe. It all adds up to more and more Wi-Fi devices and Wi-Fi usage.
This creates challenges and opportunities. Customers have high expectations and look to service providers to meet them. All of this Wi-Fi usage can create customer service challenges, but therein lies opportunity. A number of service providers are offering managed Wi-Fi services, charging customers from $3 to $10 per month to monitor and manage their home Wi-Fi networks and devices.
From a marketing perspective, service providers should ensure their marketing messages not only acknowledge Wi-Fi usage and benefits, but promote it. Many customers have multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices. Make sure they know your broadband service supports them and delivers the best Wi-Fi experience possible.