Mobile data traffic is continuing to experience unprecedented rates of growth as the number of mobile applications and smartphones proliferate. In 2016, global mobile data traffic grew by 63 percent and average smartphone usage grew 38 percent, according to Cisco’s most recent Visual Networking Index.

The move to WiFi

This surge in mobile data is placing added stress on cellular networks and both subscribers and operators are looking to WiFi offloading as an alternative approach to help meet their needs.

For mobile subscribers, connecting their device to a home or public WiFi access point allows them to lower monthly bills, and provides a more reliable connection. On the other hand, mobile service providers can offload traffic from their overloaded networks to free up bandwidth and help boost customer satisfaction by providing better connectivity to end users.

In fact, the amount of mobile traffic being offloaded to WiFi exceeds traffic on cellular networks by a significant portion. According to the Cisco report, 60 percent of total mobile data traffic was offloaded onto the fixed network through WiFi or femtocell in 2016.

What's in it for me?

The use of WiFi at public venues, such as stadiums or shopping centers, provides real benefits. Here are few good reasons for a service provider to move a customer off its network to WiFi:

  • Customer Experience: In today’s competitive market, delivering high quality of experience is essential. In times when the cellular connection is subpar or when there is heavy traffic, service providers can move users off the network so they can continue to use their device without experiencing any issue.
  • Network Capacity: In a location that experiences periods of substantial traffic, WiFi hotspots are a simple and inexpensive option to add more capacity. Adding in new infrastructure can be a costly and time consuming process.
  • New Source of Revenue: Although operators struggle to monetize WiFi access, they can still look to turn a profit through data analytics. When users access the network data is collected on them, and this could be valuable information to companies looking to carry out targeted marketing campaigns.

Should I stay, or should I go?

Another important aspect for mobile service providers to consider is when to transition users off the cellular network. For this, they need a solution which can provide visibility into the network. This will allow them to have a have a clear and accurate view of service state and performance analytics.

Once a threshold is reached and network performance begins to deteriorate, traffic can be offloaded to boost capacity and improve quality of service. Additionally, this same approach can be used to monitor the virtual network functions of the WiFi network and scale them to accommodate usage.

With mobile data traffic showing no signs of slowing down, it’s critical for mobile operators to have a strategy in place to manage capacity and provide high quality of experience.

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