Sales growing but WiFi-cellular integration to bring challengers into market
Infonetics Research has forecast carrier WiFi sales will "explode" to $2.1 billion by 2016, driven by the increased operator need to complement mobile data services and overcome spectrum challenges.
The research company said that global revenue in 2011 for what it terms "carrier WiFi equipment" grew 35% from 2010, and forecast that sales would continue to grow in "high double digits" to at least 2016.
Ericsson/BelAir Networks, Cisco, and Ruckus Wireless together accounted for more than two-thirds of 2011 equipment revenues, but Infonetics expects these three to be challenged by mobile infrastructure vendors who could benefit from a market shift to integrated WiFi/cellular base stations.
Infonetics also surveyed 24 operators on their WiFi deployment strategies. It found that two-thirds of the service providers that Infonetics interviewed have already deployed 20,000 to over 150,000 WiFi access points (APs) in public spaces. Street coverage is seen as one of the areas of "greatest deficit" for WiFi coverage; by 2013, the percentage of service providers planning to deploy WiFi for street coverage jumps to 79%
The strongest growth driver will be mobile operators deploying access points for data offload, analyst Richard Webb said.
"Our survey shows that whilst data offload is the current priority, in coming years operators will want to see a closer integration of WiFi with the mobile network so that offload becomes more intelligent, automated, and seamless," Webb said. "They want to utilise WiFi not only to augment mobile services, but to enhance the network itself by becoming an integrated part of the mobile network."
Infonetics carrier WiFi findings are detailed in two reports that you can access here.