Community WiFi, unlocking a wide range of applications and solutions

Community WiFi networks offer a great opportunity for all kinds of operators to unlock new business opportunities and applications. Beyond traditional use cases such as WiFi on the Go, the market has evolved, and Community networks can also be the foundation over which innovative services can be offered. In this blog entry, we will take a look at some of these traditional and new business applications. But let’s start from the beginning: What is a Community WiFi network? It is the result of transforming a base of isolated CPEs into a public operator-managed, cost-efficient WiFi network. And what is the purpose of these networks? Originally, these networks where first deployed by fixed broadband operators that wanted to provide on-the-go WiFi connectivity to subscribers, beyond in-house limitations, as a value-added service. This value proposition has been applied by all Fontech customers, including leading global operators such as BT, Deutsche Telekom, and Telstra, and has proved to be a valid differentiator for the service provider, resulting in improved NPS and churn figures.

Other traditional applications of Community WiFi are WiFi Offload and WiFi Monetization. Although it depends on their CPE density, community WiFi deployments can offer very good network coverage, enabling the operator to implement different mobile data offloading strategies. WiFi Offload is becoming more and more important as MNOs are starting to offer unlimited 4G tariffs to their customers, which may lead to congested mobile networks. We have recently published a variety of blog posts on this topic. On the other hand, many service providers have opted to open their Community WiFi networks to non-subscribers under a pay-per-access model. In most cases, the revenues generated by this model have fully covered the Community WiFi deployment and operating costs and have even resulted in relevant benefits. In addition to pay-per-access, there are other models based on advertising, WiFi wholesale, and roaming partnerships that can also provide notable revenue streams.

On top of these traditional applications, a Community WiFi network can empower operators to unlock other innovative and tailored services for both subscribers and businesses. For instance, Community WiFi can enable different applications in the IoT space, both in the area of the Smart Home and Smart Cities. For example, car manufacturers are considering using Community WiFi networks for vehicle-to-infrastructure delay-tolerant communications such as software upgrades and reporting certain sensorization information. But it’s not only cars that can benefit from the coverage and connectivity provided by Community WiFi. So can other connected devices which are being deployed in cities, such as air quality, parking, and garbage sensors.

In this context, Community WiFi is a good substitute for LPWAN networks such as LoRa or Sigfox: While WiFi is ubiquitous and widely used, these other technologies require the deployment of specific network infrastructure with the consequent investment and operating costs. In the scope of Smart Homes, Community WiFi provides operators with a managed WiFi network in every home. This is a very powerful asset for certain use cases such as the onboarding and management of Smart Home devices or appliances, and subsequent online support. For instance, Cirrent is a company that uses Community WiFi signals to onboard and manage connected consumer electronics devices. There are similar applications involving other type of devices like solar panels and smart meters.

Community WiFi networks can be used to collect valuable information about existing and potential customers: A powerful tool for both lead generation and customer acquisition. For instance, enabling a free WiFi-access trial can help collect contact information from non-subscribers. That information can then be used by an operator for customer acquisition campaigns. Other information that can be made available to operators, if permitted by local regulators, include usage and movement patterns, among others.

Voice over WiFi is another application that can benefit from a Community WiFi deployment. Unlike private WiFi networks, Community WiFi networks are CSP-managed which means that the service provider can manage QoS policies and ensure that the voice call is processed under sufficient quality conditions if they invest in the proper tools. The operator can also benefit from trusted integration of Community WiFi with cellular infrastructure, extending subscriber management from cellular to WiFi domain.

At Fontech, our portfolio of carrier-grade WiFi solutions empower CSPs to deploy and manage Community WiFi networks and to optimize their performance and implement multiple business applications. Get in touch if you’re interested in fully taking advantage of Community WiFi and make sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest industry insights and Fontech news!