According to ABI Research, the worldwide public Wi-Fi hotspot deployments by WiFi service providers, mobile and fixed-line carriers as well as third-party providers have reached a total of 5.69 million in 2014, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.2% between 2015 and 2020, reaching 13.3 million in 2020.
On the mobile operator front, the use of WiFi hotspots to offload mobile data traffic will continue to be the main driver for the rollout of operator Wi-Fi hotspots, with newer services such as WiFi calling further catalyzing its growth. Sharing examples of operator Wi-Fi deployments, ABI Research said that Brazilian operator, Oi, has doubled its Wi-Fi hotspots to nearly 1 million while other operators including ETECSA (Cuba), Togo Telecom, and Singtel (Singapore) launched their own Wi-Fi services during the last year. The rollout of Operator Wi-Fi services is accompanied by the introduction of data packages that combine both Wi-Fi and wireless data, allowing customers to switch between these networks while being on the same plan.
Operator Wi-Fi services though, said ABI Research, have their own set of challenges, namely the high cost of sales and the low ROI on residential Wi-Fi, which is a consideration for operators in formulating their Wi-Fi service strategies. In response to these challenges, a number of Operators including China Telecom and British Telecom, have either slowed down their deployments or chosen to enter partnerships with third-party operators, added ABI Research.