This is an excerpt from ENEA’s white paper Wi-Fi in the 5G Era – Strategy Guide for Operators. The full white paper is available here if you like what you read. Don’t hesitate to contact ENEA if you have any questions.
Based on twenty years of Wi-Fi industry evolution, carrier Wi-Fi monetization strategies are both well-known and evolving continuously to match B2B and B2C needs.
This blog post will dwell on how service providers can monetize Wi-Fi directly through B2B and home Wi-Fi services.
Enea, through the Aptilo Product Line, has been actively participating in this service evolution process from the start.
So how do you monetize Wi-Fi? The question has loomed large for years, particularly since, from a consumer point of view, Wi-Fi is typically offered as a free amenity. This does, however, not mean that service providers cannot monetize Wi-Fi services. Apple founder Steve Jobs once elegantly pointed out that “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” And this is indeed true specifically for Wi-Fi.
The service provider will receive significant revenues from venues that want to provide carrier-grade Wi-Fi to guests or workers to stay competitive and relevant. Users receive the free service in return for their engagement with the brand and as a result of surrendering some personal details. The service providers may even agree to subsidize the B2B Wi-Fi service at particularly attractive venues to secure a valuable indoor Wi-Fi footprint for their subscribers’ use.
For years operator-managed Wi-Fi has been a specialized but growing telecom market segment. Most Wi-Fi monetization strategies and methods are not new. Still, in the coming years, we expect them to grow in value and importance as they are boosted, particularly by the mass-market arrival of new Wi-Fi technology.
This strategy is driven by the continuous increase in demand for quality Wi-Fi services by businesses everywhere. Hardly a public or private venue exists without the need for Wi-Fi. So business customers can now benefit by offering their visitors and staff top-quality carrier-grade Wi-Fi delivered by expert service providers.
OPERATOR MANAGED B2B GUEST WI-FI
B2B Wi-Fi offers not only a significant revenue stream but also a needed service ‘stickiness’ that keeps businesses and consumers coming back. Enea believes B2B Wi-Fi is a business-critical contribution to an all-encompassing 5G strategy, including high-speed, low-latency indoor services delivered over Wi-Fi.
Businesses want to provide an easy-to-use, high-quality Wi-Fi service for their visitors. In many cases, venue owners see value in using Wi-Fi to engage with their guests and clients, for example, by asking clients to complete a short survey, create and verify accounts, or presenting them with Internet access sponsorship options, coupon offers, and so on.
In some cases, venues will still request payment for Wi-Fi services, often according to a ‘freemium’-type business model. In other instances, venues may accept guests accessing their network via Passpoint-based auto-connect Wi-Fi either for free or via a paid settlement agreement between operators.
It is a well-established fact that venue owners benefit from collecting and analyzing Wi-Fi data. They can use the data for targeted marketing of products and services. Care must be exercised to act only in accordance with GDPR or other relevant privacy regulations.
When operators provide such sophisticated Wi-Fi-based tools to businesses, they are typically also engaging their clients at the decision-making level, which is conducive to building stronger, higher-value, and more fruitful client relationships.
B2B Wi-Fi is a win x 5. The service provider’s B2B department gets a profitable service, business customers get analytics and a tool to engage their visitors, and visitors get a carrier class Wi-Fi service. If an additional SSID or Passpoint service is implemented for the operator’s subscribers, then the consumer department will receive the benefits of reduced churn and network operations will get much needed indoor coverage.
All of these things are not easy for business owners to accomplish on their own. In most cases, they are best provided by experts – meaning operators.
Suppose operator B2B Wi-Fi doubles as a service offered to consumers. In that case, both operators and consumers will benefit from the high-capacity deep indoor wireless coverage – provided that the Wi-Fi networks are built on Wi-Fi 6 and follow carrier-grade quality standards. The same applies to any businesses relying on indoor coverage.
Last but not least: Mobile operators can, in some cases, leverage the strong demand for Wi-Fi from businesses to introduce small cells or DAS systems into indoor locations owned by such businesses. In some instances, venue owners may more readily accept such installations when also provided with the quality Wi-Fi that their businesses and their guests need. In this way, the operator’s B2B Wi-Fi services can also become an indirect means of achieving better indoor cellular coverage.
OPERATOR HOME WI-FI Residential Wi-Fi delivered by ISPs is right now one of the most significant growth opportunities not just in Wi-Fi but within all of the tech world. A big driver is the need for much better home connectivity to accommodate an avalanche of devices. More and more individuals are transforming their homes into work-from-home offices.
Most ISP-delivered home Wi-Fi services are today managed with simple WPA2 or WPA3 passkey access. However, in more sophisticated cases, smart home services are delivered to Wi-Fi devices at the endpoints. For example, a smart home Wi-Fi configuration app can provision not only Internet connectivity but many other services, such as parental controls, security monitoring, motion detection, and more.
In a few relatively new use cases, the classic world of residential Wi-Fi (as provided by ISPs) and public Wi-Fi (such as managed services enabled by Passpoint or SIM-based authentication) are to some extent merging.
These include, for example, Wi-Fi services offered at MDU (Multi-Dwelling Unit) housing complexes such as senior living facilities, long-stay resorts and condominiums, college campuses, and more.
Wi-Fi services for MDUs – because they are often deployed to cover a wide area similar to classic campus Wi-Fi – often require carrier-grade authentication and service management so guests and residents can enjoy high-quality, secure, and reliable Wi-Fi services anywhere on the property and on any connected device they choose.
We believe the service provider industry in the coming years will see new products or even new companies emerge to serve many such specialized MDU (or new emerging enterprise) segments. Many such new business opportunities will be driven by the hugely improved and more sophisticated Wi-Fi technology and services based on Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.