With greater than 70% of wireless network traffic being indoors, the potential of WiFi calling addresses the two main issues facing today’s wireless networks: Coverage & Capacity. WiFi is typically available in more difficult to cover indoor locations or is placed in public areas that already have high capacity requirements. It also allows for improved overall network capacity today through data offload. The addition of voice (and more data) traffic to WiFi networks allows wireless operators to delay site builds, spectrum acquisitions/deployments, and reduced back-haul requirements in addition to lower their annual Operational Expense (OpEx) requirements. We will take a look at a few areas that focusing WiFi offload for voice and data services fits into operators plans. The greatest focus is for carriers that are facing spectrum limitations and have limited capital to expand network footprints.
CapEx: Capital expenditures are a continual necessity in the telecom space. The ability to reduce or delay CapEx spending allows operators to reduce debt obligations and focus in other areas than network the additional spending on the acquisition and retention of customers. WiFi calling requires the operator to delay or eliminate some new build sites, reduce indoor small cell deployments, offload traffic from licensed spectrum delaying or eliminating additional purchases, as well as requiring less core infrastructure to support it.
OpEx: Operational expenses are limited solely to carrier wifi and the maintenance on the core network supporting WiFi calling features. These costs are minimal compared to the operational expense for lease, backhaul, power, and maintenance on cell structures whether traditional macro cells or small cells as many services piggyback with existing core infrastructure. With the cost of voice minutes continuing to dwindle, the impact to the bottom line on WiFi calling is essentially pennies per user while saving costs of operating additional cell sites from a end point or core perspective.
Time to Market: There is always the case for Carrier WiFi deployments in high traffic public areas that may take some time. Examples would include airports, stadiums, hospitals, hotels, etc. However for most inbuilding environments, WiFi already exists. Depending on the part of the world, it could be said that quality WiFi already exists. This means the time to market is simply how fast can devices support WiFi calling. This puts the time to market in the control of the operator and handset OEMs for initial launch and add-on services and deployment types.
Customer Expectation: One greater point is the customer experience. When customers have issues with WiFi calling, they tend to direct fault to the WiFi system and not the operator. Quite different from the user mentality when they are out and about on the operator’s 4G/3G networks which are typically said to be at fault over even the handset.
In conclusion, WiFi calling is a key tool in the operator toolbox to increase savings in capital and operational spending. The expansion in WiFi calling also allows operators to fend off OTT (Over the Top) applications that can drive into talk time, service revenue, and coveted international dialing revenue. Many OTT services such as Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, and FaceTime have dug into operator controlled services and allowed them to enter as competitors in new service offerings once held exclusively by wireless operators.