Carrier Wi-Fi stays strong despite LTE-U threat

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Carrier Wi-Fi unit shipments will hit almost two million this year, despite the increasing popularity of LTE-U projects, new research has claimed.

The report from ABI Research said the rapid development of LTE-U technology, which uses licensed and unlicensed spectrum, has led to questions being asked about the relationship between cellular networks and Wi-Fi.

Ahmed Ali, Research Analyst at ABI Research, said: "While a number of mobile operators, especially Wi-Fi laggards, would strongly back LTE-U and look forward to it to compensate for late or poor Wi-Fi adoption, the carrier Wi-Fi space continues to grow, attracting other players like fixed and cable operators. We expect a total shipment of nearly 2 million units in 2015."

The report found that innovation was leading to a change in appeal for Wi-Fi, from cost saving to revenue generating. It said that while 802.11ac and WiGig standards can boost capacity, the likes of Hotspot 2.0 technology can improve the consumer experience through new access methods and increased security.

It also highlighted how Wi-Fi technology can be used to provide consumers with new services. Ali added: "Wi-Fi calling, for example, provides opportunities for non-mobile carriers to enter and compete in the wireless market. Also, dual-SSID gateways allow operators with massive home and enterprise footprints to move into public Wi-Fi segment through community Wi-Fi."

The restaurant and cafe industries remained the most useful for operators to drive revenues. The report said the sector's dynamic and populous customer base meant Wi-Fi was useful for offloading data and offering analytics.

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