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  • Mark Middleton

The Importance of Seamless Wi-Fi Roaming

A recent entrant in the business model justification behind investment in carrier-grade Wi-Fi infrastructure is international Wi-Fi roaming revenue.

Turn a cost-avoidance exercise into a revenue generation opportunity

The owner of a large-scale, carrier-grade metro Wi-Fi network (or a lessee of a virtual SSID on that network) can offer Wi-Fi access or Wi-Fi offload services to in-roaming subscribers (turning a cost-avoidance exercise into a revenue generation one). The Wi-Fi network owner can do this directly, or via a wholesale roaming deal with the home MNO or a roaming hubs. More recently, it has become possible for the Wi-Fi network owner can use OTT providers such as Skype to sell Wi-Fi access on its behalf. These methods can be significant revenue earners for the MNO or infra operator over and above the traditional MNO benefits of owning and operating a seamlessly-accessible, carrier-grade Wi-Fi network such as increased revenue, reduced churn, enhanced customer experience etc.

Although international mobile data roaming charges have been under regulatory scrutiny for some time and even thought prices are dropping, in many markets they are still prohibitively high (sometimes up to US$25 per MB). That’s $25,000 to download a 1GB movie. These charges are not always driven by home network gouging but rather by high visitor network wholesale prices charged to the home network MNO. In the face of this, many travellers still chose to turn off cellular data while roaming and prefer to save money hunting down Wi-Fi networks when overseas. It is better for the visitor’s home MNO to continue to earn some Wi-Fi related revenue and maintain the customer relationship through an enhanced service offering including Wi-Fi roaming, rather than face the prospect of the subscriber turning roaming off and renting a local SIM or using an alternative local Wi-Fi provider outside the control of the MNO. Additional revenue and enhanced customer service is better than revenue loss and a subscriber disconnect.

MNOs now need to offer the ability for a roaming subscriber to seamlessly authenticate onto a visitor Wi-Fi network using the same, home network, seamless Wi-Fi offload authentication method or application, all while billing to the home subscriber account. For a discussion on best-practice authentication methods for Wi-Fi offload, see our blog post here. The Acurix Networks partnership with Accuris Networks means that we are able to offer our MNO customers seamless Wi-Fi offload both in the home and (once integrated) in the visited network.

If the MNOs don’t get together and sign bilateral Wi-Fi roaming agreements as well as connect their networks through the growing number of Wi-Fi roaming hubs, we will see individual subscribers contracting directly with the visited Wi-Fi network, cutting out the home MNO. The more seamless the experience for the subscriber, the better.

Wi-Fi roaming and hubbing were hot topics at the recent Wi-Fi Global Congress in London. We are therefore to see some progress in this space soon. For more information, please contact us, or see also the WBA Alliance’s Global Wi-Fi Roaming initiative and specifications here.

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