Despite technical and strategic hurdles, the commercial benefits of offloading onto WiFi are clear.
WiFi offload increasingly popular
Given the inexorable rise of mobile data, it is critical for carriers to communicate their data offload techniques. Many options exist, although WiFi offload is proving increasingly popular. In particular, European operators' are increasing reliant on WiFi offload followed by US operators.
Smoother access to WiFi will act as a driver for use, further relieving congestion on mobile networks and taking advantage of the greater throughput available. To improve the customer proposition, technology such as internet protocol security (IPsec) can be incorporated into devices, with password-free authentication acting as one route to a more convenient service.
However, spectrum bands pose problems too: most smartphones are capable of using WiFi in the 2.4 GHz band, but not all operators hold WiFi assets in this band. Even once handover and spectrum issues are resolved, mobile backhaul strategies require careful evaluation.
Despite technical and strategic hurdles, the commercial benefits of offloading onto WiFi are clear, particularly when considering the higher media consumption generated by tablets as compared to smartphones. The proportion of smartphone and tablet traffic offloaded worldwide is expected to increase despite expected declines in many developing markets, where more mature market scenarios could consist of more mobile-only users without home WiFi access.
Projected dual-mode and femtocell traffic offloads as a percentage of smartphone and tablet traffic5
Low cost tablet enters the market
Much has been made of the rise of tablet devices, which are helping to revolutionize the computing device market. However, the story does not end with its aspirational form factor, as shown by recent developments in India. Having put out a tender for the development of a low-cost tablet, the Indian government revealed a new device, known as Aakash and made by UK-based group DataWind, in early October.
Plans are underway to sell 100,000 units to students in secondary schools for US$35 (INR1,750 as of 11 November 2011). The device's role in boosting e-learning forms the principal mission statement — it will retail at US$60 for interested consumers. The Aakash tablet puts existing e-education device initiatives in the shade.
Back in 2006, the World Economic Development Forum backed the One Laptop per Child project, which sought to bring US$100 laptops to children in developing markets. It would seem that device types — and prices— have altered since this ground-breaking initiative. Looking ahead, the Indian Government plans to increase production of the Aakash, bringing the cost down to US$10 (INR500 as of 11 November 2011).
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5 "Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffi c Forecast Update 2010-2015," Cisco press release, 1 February 2011.