Asia-Pacific carriers dominate in Wi-Fi deployments

Nicole McCormick
19 Dec 2013

Ovum evaluated 69 operator Wi-Fi offerings in 32 countries in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, South America and found Asia Pacific accounted for 43% (29 of 69) of the Wi-Fi offerings. Europe was second with 21 operators, followed by North America with nine.

When it comes to pricing, however, the company's Global Carrier Wi-Fi Pricing and Plans Tracker saw no "one size fits all", with strong diversity within each region. Ovum found that competition was key to pricing strategies.

For instance, in the competitive Japanese market, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank Mobile now include Wi-Fi for free (that is, no incremental cost to the consumer) for flat-rate data customers (which made up 64% of DoCoMo's total subs base at the end of June). DoCoMo was the last MNO to drop charges for Wi-Fi in September 2012, amid market share loss pressure. South Korean operators, such as KT and SK Telecom, also have no access charge for Wi-Fi for 3G and LTE customers. In South Korea and Japan, Wi-Fi offload is essential to traffic management given unlimited 3G and LTE mobile pricing in combination with rising mobile data usage.

How telcos package Wi-Fi also depends on the extent of government free public Wi-Fi initiatives, which exist in markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. We are not surprised that Korean mobile operators offer public Wi-Fi for free to users. The government is targeting to increase free Wi-Fi locations to 12,000 by 2017. The Thai government has the region's most ambitious free public Wi-Fi plan to deploy 400,000 free public Wi-Fi hotspots (2 Mbps) by end-2015. This sort of large-scale free public Wi-Fi initiative distorts the market and makes charging for Wi-Fi challenging.

A large number of operators in the Tracker, however, offered some form of "additional charge" for Wi-Fi services. These varied from Wi-Fi offered to existing customers and non-customers, to special or differing rates based on the type of customer or the core services to which the customer subscribed. "Pay for" services are offered on a variety of terms including per session, per day, per week or per month. Some plans meter time while others meter the amount of data used.

Out of the 69 operators offering Wi-Fi, 39 offered some form of "pay for" Wi-Fi for either their own existing customers or non-customers. While a majority of fixed and integrated operators did not offer "pay for" Wi-Fi access due to bundling this into fixed and mobile subscriptions, a majority of mobile customers did have separate "pay for" plans.

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