As carriers look more seriously at Wi-Fi offload as a way to reduce congestion on their networks, they better listen carefully to those who use it.
A new study from market-research consultancy iGR asked consumers how the Wi-Fi networks that they use outside their home could improve, and the answer was clear: More than three in five said "speed."
Users might choose a Wi-Fi connection instead of a mobile broadband connection to avoid going over a monthly data-plan allowance or simply to have a faster experience. This user-driven form of Wi-Fi offload is the most predominant form today, of Wi-Fi offload today, iGR said.
iGR expects the other type of WiFi Offload – carrier-driven – to be used more extensively by the carriers in the future. This involves operators actively switching 3G/4G traffic to a Wi-Fi network. The necessary network and handset technology is just beginning to emerge but is expected to be much more common by 2016.
iGR's new report forecasts a 73 percent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in Wi-Fi offload from 2011 to 2016.
"The key benefits of Wi-Fi offload involve relieving congestion on licensed spectrum and improving the user's data experience," said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR. "Although Wi-Fi offload is not extensively used by subscribers today, our new study shows strong growth in Wi-Fi offload in the next four years. And if the Wi-Fi providers can deliver faster speeds which many consumers desire, the growth could be even stronger than expected."
iGR's says its report, "U.S. WiFi Offload Traffic Forecast, 2011 - 2016: Relief for Mobile Data Networks?," provides details on WiFi and forecasts two types of traffic, Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi offload, through 2016. It's aimed at mobile operators; device OEMs; content providers and distributors; cable MSOs and those offering Wi-Fi services; and financial analysts and investors.