Wi-Fi - From backstage to centrefoldOne recent and interesting curiosity is how quickly new devices can change usage patterns [read: increase internet traffic even more]. It is claimed that mobile devices accumulate approx. 8% of the total internet traffic today (noting that the traffic generated by mobile devices can also be carried over a fixed network), and tablet type devices take an impressive 3% of this share (38% of the total mobile traffic). Of these 3% nearly all come from iPads - a device that has been on the market for less than two years! Tablets are essentially designed for media consumption, so the increase in traffic does not come as a surprise. Cisco seems to have been quite right with their tablet traffic estimates as a population of less than 50 million devices, compared to the over 500 million smartphones, generates 38% of the mobile traffic, i.e. a per device traffic of ca. six times more than smartphones.
Connected and surfing tablets is of course only the beginning, and as new devices emerge people will increasingly consume services such as music, videos, TV and other media online which inevitably leads to a continued steep traffic growth, it is then only natural that networks adapt as well. Not only do we see new generations of more efficient technologies and networks, but also network convergence is increasingly used to cope with the traffic. Wi-Fi is already well spread globally and a standard component of our home and office environments. Last year close to 70% of sold smartphones were Wi-Fi capable and estimates vary on the outlook, but we could likely see 100% reached within a year from now, and non-WiFi Tablets would be unsellable. So it comes pretty logically to consider using Wi-Fi to offload the mobile networks basic traffic, but it also opens a door for new innovative use cases and business models.
From a Nordic viewpoint, Wi-Fi might not strike as the hottest topic in the industry, but globally the stir is greater. In parts of Asia and US Wi-Fi is a true complement to cellular networks, and not only in areas where mobile broadband build out is not as extensive. Innovative use cases of Wi-Fi do not only include user applications for remote controlling, wireless data transfer and the like but solutions to bring connectivity to challenging locations (mobile Wi-Fi hubs, Wi-Fi in airplanes) have proved the technology is mature and secure enough for wide use. Sooner or later the global device and service ecosystem will open up and encourage models based on Wi-Fi to prosper in the Nordic countries as well.
Sources: Cisco VNI, ABI Research, Strategy Analytics
Suvi Lintusalo is a Consultant at Northstream
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29 Sep 2011