It’s high time for emerging market operators to cash in on Wi-Fi

wi-fi emerging
Image credit: d_odin /

Wi-Fi represents a huge opportunity for service providers in emerging markets and recent initiatives from technology players such as Google and Facebook confirm it. However, there are a number of reasons why Wi-Fi has not been deployed to its full potential yet in many emerging markets.

In many cases, operators lack sufficient incentives to invest in Wi-Fi networks because they are unsure how to monetize them. Wi-Fi is perceived as a threat to data plans, but it does not have to be that way. If the proper monetization strategies are adopted, investing in the capex required to deploy a Wi-Fi network adds value for customers and delivers a return for operators.

Luckily, there are a number of powerful solutions on the market that make it easy for operators to successfully implement Wi-Fi monetization strategies and open Wi-Fi up on a pay-per-access approach to both people and things requiring connectivity. Not only do these use cases enable them to gain new revenue sources, they can also drive leads.

It is important for carriers to find a Wi-Fi monetization solution that enables them to offer a customizable Wi-Fi experience and choose from a variety of monetization schemes, all from a centralized platform. Whether it be offering Wi-Fi through pass sales, after watching an advertisement, a free pass valid only for a limited time at lower speeds, or even through wholesale agreements with other third parties, operators have a variety of ways to manage and monetize Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi as a tool to meet current market demand

Many emerging countries are densely populated, price-sensitive, and experiencing skyrocketing data demands. In these countries, the number of mobile internet subscribers is expected to increase significantly in the coming years and the growth will be driven by operators signing up first-time customers at low prices, but in massive numbers. For example, according to PwC, India will see a dramatic rise in subscriber numbers, adding 375 million mobile internet subscribers to the global total by 2021.

Operators will have to meet the needs of their customers and deal with network congestion cost effectively. In this context, it will be essential for them to implement an offloading strategy. This can be achieved using a carrier-grade Wi-Fi solution that enables delivery of Wi-Fi access services that can be managed just like traditional cellular and fixed services. Managed carrier-grade Wi-Fi solutions can not only deliver Wi-Fi offload and Wi-Fi monetization for operators, they can also open the possibility to implement other uses cases, including community Wi-Fi, that delight their customers and differentiate their value proposition.

At the same time, operators in emerging markets must ensure that customers have a high-quality user experience on Wi-Fi to make the most of their deployments. An always-best-connected experience to subscribers on Wi-Fi means that users’ devices should connect seamlessly to available Wi-Fi networks without long authentication processes that adversely affect customer experience. There are specific solutions in the market that are already capable of providing this high-quality service that will be critical to maximize technology adoption.

Emerging opportunities: enterprises and the digital divide

Wi-Fi for business is a huge opportunity for service providers and business owners. IGR reports that businesses see a 72% success rate in increased sales after implementing free Wi-Fi. By offering guest Wi-Fi solutions, operators can take advantage of the growing demand that is likely to come from businesses across all verticals.

Operators should opt for a solution that is flexible enough to meet the needs of distinct business verticals, segment networks into multi-level hierarchical structures, and apply different guest Wi-Fi business models and end-user Wi-Fi experiences to each vertical. This allows them to offer tailored Wi-Fi services to different clients while significantly reducing operational costs.

They can also make Wi-Fi a business tool by providing businesses with complete analytics to better understand their customers and integrate easily with pre-existing management and billing systems.

In emerging countries, the digital divide is a critical issue that Wi-Fi can help address. Last year, the UN reported an alarming figure, stating that 52% of the world’s population still has no access to the internet. Connectivity is already a relevant indicator for a country’s development and Wi-Fi could be a key tool in emerging countries to improve and democratize it.

Connecting the unconnected, as well as improving the connectivity experience of those already enjoying access to the internet, represents a huge business opportunity for service providers that will deliver value for both them and their fast-growing customer bases.

Alex Puregger, CEO of FonWritten by Alex Puregger, CEO of Fon

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