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News from a leading, international WiFi hotspot access provider

Archive for May, 2013

Beyond the 4G Slogan, is WiFi a Necessary Evil or a True Opportunity for Mobile Operators?

Posted by Trustive on May 30, 2013

  • Few operators will spend the billions required to deploy 4G despite many areas suffering with poor coverage and network saturation due to high density of users.
  • Broadband will continue to be deployed providing high speed services, using fibre optics or satellite.
  • WiFi remains the cheapest mobile broadband access solution for travellers.

 

The iPhone revolutionised the mobile market and instigated a major shift towards mobile data consumption. In fact, a recent survey predicts that mobile data traffic will reach 16.84 million terabytes by 2014 but 3G was never designed to handle this level of data traffic.

Mobile operators are therefore seeking an alternative to 3G and are looking for capital to invest in 4G spectrum and the associated transformation of their infrastructure (more than 10 billion USD was invested in 2012*); the 4G war was started by few leading companies with disputes around patents and new contracts for subscribers as operators look to increase ARPU (Average Revenue Per User). However, some operators intend to manage the impact of this growth primarily through new pricing strategies and WiFi-based offload solutions; some operators have already offloaded 50% of their data traffic onto WiFi networks.

In 2012, Trustive integrated a further 200,000 premium WiFi hotspots into its own network, bringing the network total to 500,000 WiFi hotspots in 130 countries.

A recent Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) survey revealed that mobile data growth is a key factor in the build-out of WiFi hotspots and predicted that the number of WiFi hotspots set to more than triple from 1.3 million in 2011 to 5.8 million by 2015, marking a 350 percent increase. The growth in WiFi hotspots will primarily be in locations such as: Outdoor, urban hot zones, popular tourist attractions (museums, attraction parks), transportation hubs, events (stadiums) and supermarkets.

As billions will be spent on obtaining and retaining domestic customers, there is some doubt about how closely operators will cooperate in order to provide competitive data plans for 3G or 4G access for commuters during their international travels. According to the aforementioned WBA report, there are 340 million roaming trips per year and people now use up to 3 devices (versus 1 device previously), mainly smartphones, notebooks and tablets.

Trustive records a clear split in usage: laptops/notebooks 50%, smartphones 45% & tablets 5%.

The need for high speed mobile internet access is exploding but, when travelling abroad, commuters are advised by their mobile operators to turn off data roaming on their smartphones and tablets.

However, commuters still want and need to access their favourite applications in order to stay in touch with colleagues, friends and family. Applications such as Skype and Fring can offer travellers significant savings compared to the cost of paying to make and receive calls and messages via a domestic mobile operator for example. Commuters also want to share photos and videos with their social networks in real-time and to be able to access their e-mails at a reasonable cost.

If 3G data roaming services are restricted or impractical, then travellers will naturally turn to a familiar alternative that is viable: WiFi.

The number of commuters who make use of WiFi currently numbers just a few hundred thousand and the average length of a Trustive WiFi session in 2012 was around 50 minutes. Whilst the average data exchange was 70MB per WiFi session, the heaviest sessions involved data exchanges of 12GB to 14GB. Whilst extreme by current standards, Trustive considers such sessions to be indicative of how the users’ growing appetite for data consumption will transform WiFi in the future.

OTT and other leading internet companies understand the importance of mobile broadband for their future survival and growth and it is for this reason that Google, Facebook, Skype and others are making strategic movements into this arena. Based on Trustive’s experience of working with some of these players, there is no doubt that they are very serious about responding to commuters’ need to stay connected. However, operators are still missing a significant opportunity to extend their mobile offering. By responding to customer demand and adding WiFi roaming capabilities to their portfolio, operators would be monetizing the opportunity that exists within the WiFi ecosystem and retaining customer loyalty.

Unfortunately, signing and implementing WiFi roaming agreements is not always as simple as it should be for operators, due to a lack of common understanding of the associated technical specifications and the complex processes, interfaces, internal organisations and subcommittees (etc.) employed by operators to reach, implement and manage multiple roaming agreements.

For internet experts, the “RADIUS world” is pretty simple, with an architecture that allows for fast integration and implementation; new inter-connects can be up and running within a few weeks or months even. However, due to the above-mentioned complexities, this same inter-connect process may take years for some operators.

In order to integrate WiFi roaming capabilities into a global plan, operators should consider:
– connection software / applications to provide seamless access
– network integration
– billing & settlement systems
By taking care of the above elements and improving backend systems to achieve smooth interoperability with the WiFi carrier and maximise cost control, operators can ensure that they provide a seamless, user-friendly service that commuters will come to rely on.

 

In conclusion, commuters have already expressed a clear need for high-speed, low-cost mobile internet access and their appetite for data consumption is only going to increase in the coming years. International WiFi networks, like Trustive’s, can fulfil this need and be employed by mobile operators to complement and complete their 3G/4G deployments, alleviate existing 3G network saturation issues as well as offer a means of proactively managing commuters’ accelerating data consumption in the years to come, and thereby support the 340 million roaming trips made each year.

 

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GOOD NEWS FOR COMMUTERS: MOBILE DATA INNOVATION WITH A CLOUD BASED NETWORK SELECTION AND SIM AUTHENTICATION

Posted by Trustive on May 28, 2013

Leading operators join forces to bring an innovative solution for Android smartphone users for seamless, secured connectivity as they travel in Europe, providing major savings & full budget control.

Guglielmo and Trustive, two of Europe’s leading operators, have signed an important agreement, which aims to strengthen the historical collaboration between these companies and enable them to offer truly transparent and automatic access to both cellular and WiFi networks for all users travelling in Europe using a “SIM unlocked”* or dual SIM Android smartphone for voice, SMS, mobile data and WiFi access.

The object of the agreement envisages the distribution of a combined SIM card and a free application for Android smartphones, which provides seamless authentication using purely the SIM card data, thereby guaranteeing complete user identification, total privacy and maximum speed of access, without the need to enter a password or perform any kind of manual sign up procedure.

The partners’ goals are aligned to offer viable alternatives to expensive 3G roaming packages through easy to use solutions aimed at business and leisure travellers for comprehensive data communications using WiFi and cost-effective voice communications whilst they are on the move.

Initial testing has started and proved very successfully in France and Italy. Every year France and Italy welcome over 130 million visitors, travelling on business or leisure, and mobile Internet access using the mobile phone network is proving increasingly more limited due to the high international roaming fees applied. In this context, WiFi is the ideal tool for overcoming these limitations, as long as access availability is extremely widespread and above all if network access is practical and efficient.

What this initiative sets out to do is offer an effective answer to what has now become an extremely widespread need.

Guglielmo and Trustive have over 7,000 premium sites (over 30,000 access points) distributed throughout France and Italy which users will be able to connect to by simply using their SIM card as an automatic authentication tool, emulating, in each and every way, access to the mobile phone network.

In recent years, the huge explosion in the smartphone market and the forecasted exponential growth in mobile traffic have profoundly changed the scenario of applications and services which can be fully experienced whilst on the move, making WiFi a key part of the mobile infrastructure.

In an attempt to manage the issues involved in a fully seamless integration between WiFi and cellular networks, main standardization boards are currently working to define guidelines and protocols for WiFi network implementation. This process has proven to be somewhat confusing because the various organizations and standardisation boards are all focusing on similar problems while pursuing different solutions. Furthermore, the lack of compliance for these standards on network elements (mobile terminals, access points, controllers, etc.) makes the transition to new standards extremely difficult.

The free application for Android smartphones has an effective Cloud Based Network Selection logic and includes a patented SIM-based user authentication, thus overcoming what has always been the real limit in accessing heterogeneous wireless networks. In particular this limitation is even more pronounced in Europe where the heterogeneity of networks is even more marked. The application also includes a “hotspot finder”, integrated with gmaps, so that the user can find the nearest WiFi network available and also makes it possible to select “friendly” WiFi networks for automatic connection (e.g. home and company networks), thus overcoming the limits imposed by the operating system installed on the user’s handheld device.

“This new authentication process probably represents the most innovative development we have dealt with over the last few years, because it significantly improves user experience and connection reliability,” says Giovanni Guerri, CEO of Guglielmo. “The most significant feature is the extraordinary capacity to perform authentication on a WiFi network using the active connection, thus opening a completely revolutionary scenario in terms of performance.”

Christian Vanghelder, MD at Trustive, stated “as commuters ourselves, we look at innovation to support the need to communicate and stay in touch with our business, our family and friends. The Android smartphone and OTT services have revolutionised the way we communicate. But we still face confusing data plans, high costs/restrictions and complex authentication models in order to access the internet abroad. Along with SIM Card authentication for both 3G and WiFi, we can now provide truly seamless access and improve security and all this at a competitive price by combining offers from our long term partners. We are happy to launch this initiative, combining our experience and expertise to facilitate and secure access for commuters.”

Guglielmo and Trustive are planning to launch a commercial offer in France and Italy this summer and, according to customer feedback, may extend this program across the rest of Europe thereafter.

In the current market there is still a lot of room for innovation and Guglielmo and Trustive expect this initiative to point the way forward for mobile operators, encouraging the speedy deployment of new, simplified offers, using SIM cards as the key for simplification and security. At the moment 340 million roaming trips are looking for a solution!

Guglielmo is one of the leading wireless Internet service providers in Italy and has a network consisting of over 12,000 access points and over 2 million users registered by means of its very own LUMEN platform. Guglielmo owes its name to the founders’ wish to pay a well-deserved tribute to the physicist from Bologna, Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of radio waves and the father of telecommunications. As well as its standard activities of service provider, Guglielmo is also very active in R&D.

Trustive is No 1 in Europe and a leading international WiFi premium hotspot access provider, giving travellers extensive WiFi coverage by combining the hotspot locations of more than 80+ leading WiFi operators into one unified, global network of over 500,000 premium WiFi hotspots in 130+ countries. Trustive is a member of the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

* “SIM Unlocked” smartphone is a smartphone accepting any SIM and not linked to a specific operator

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2012 COMMUTER PROFILE AND MOBILE DATA CHOICES

Posted by Trustive on May 14, 2013

  • Just a few hundred thousand commuters rely on WiFi today, but the number of potential roamers numbers 340 million according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s last report.
  • Continued trend towards multiple devices with an average of 3 devices per user.
  • Shift from laptop usage towards a reliance on smartphones (45%), laptops and notebooks (50%) and tablets (5%)
  • New usage patterns show a move away from traditional emails and surfing towards cloud computing, VoIP and conference calling (Skype), video streaming, online applications and the real-time sharing of photos and videos with online communities, particularly via GoPro or smartphones (using WiFi).
  • Higher speed broadband access is essential for new devices and in particular more upstream bandwidth is needed to facilitate the sharing of photos and videos in real-time during events.
  • WiFi access with its inherent speed, security and cost manageability is the only alternative to restrictive 3G services: network saturation in crowded areas or at peak times, lack of 3G/4G coverage and lack of acceptable international data plans.

Traffic and devices

Trustive’s network traffic has increased by 100% between 2011 and 2012, whilst its WiFi footprint has increased by 60% to include 500,000 premium hotspots in 130 countries. In 2012, Trustive’s traffic was concentrated in Europe (65%) and Latin America (30%). This significant increase in traffic is the result of:

1.)   Evolution of mobile usage from voice centric to data centric

With mobile usage evolving away from voice and towards data traffic, Trustive continues to see increases in WiFi usage, particularly in Europe where consumers are plagued by 3G data plan restrictions, saturated networks and high prices.

Trustive aims to provide travellers with premium WiFi coverage whenever and wherever they need it in order to offer a viable mobile internet data access solution. Trustive therefore plans to concentrate on developing its premium WiFi network in Latin America and particularly in Brazil (in preparation for the upcoming 2014 Football World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016) as well as to optimise its existing European network.

2.)   Multiple devices become the norm and commuters grow to rely more on smartphones (45%) and tablets (5%).

In previous years, Trustive has responded to customer demand by allowing customers to use their WiFi passes on multiple devices. Pre 2010, the norm was one device, usually a laptop. In 2012 Trustive observed a significant evolution in usage with an average of 3 devices per user, a pattern which has also been observed by some of our partners. In 2012, commuters travelled with smartphones (45%), laptops/notebooks (50%) and tablets (5%).

Usage pattern

There is strong interest from the OTT (Over The Top) companies such as Skype, Facebook, YouTube and others for viable mobile data and WiFi solutions. Some of these applications are banned by operators when you travel. Skype calls or video communications are possible via WiFi at very low costs, which is appropriate when you are far away. With the rise of WebRTC, which allows voice and video calling directly from browser to browser, another boost in traffic is a real possibility.

As people are becoming more and more addicted to mobile data (through their apps and social networks) and the concept of “Bring Your Own Device” grows in popularity, WiFi usage now reflects a real mix of business and leisure activities. Emails are just one aspect of a spectrum that now includes video streaming, social networks, online games, Skype conference calls, and now the uploading of photos and/or videos to share in real-time on the net, particularly during events.

The average length of a WiFi session in 2012 was around 50 minutes with an average exchange of 70MB per session.  On one side, Trustive witnessed the average Skype session lasting just 12 minutes, with an average data exchange of 11MB. On the other hand, WiFi usage in some of Trustive’s hotel venues, where video streaming is of course very popular, could easily register 300MB in just 10 minutes. In fact, Trustive’s hotel venues alone have seen a jump in the average data consumption per session between 2011 and 2012 of 68%.

At the most extreme end of the scale, Trustive has recorded WiFi sessions ranging from 2 to more than 7 hours, with a data exchange of 12 to 14GB per session. Such sessions were observed at premium Trustive hotspots (mainly hotels and conference centres) where location, high speed broadband, security and quality management are key. Whilst extreme by current standards, Trustive considers such sessions to be indicative of how the users’ growing appetite for data consumption will transform WiFi in the future.

Imagine the price of such 3G data sessions abroad!

During 2012, commuters downloaded an average of 60MB per session and uploaded an average of 10MB. However, the trend to share photos and/or videos with friends in real-time via social networks is changing this pattern already.

It is relatively easy to foresee the balance of traffic in the short to medium term, with serious increases in the uploading of data (due to the sharing of photos and videos during events for example); similar observations have been reported during the Super Bowl and the London Olympics. Trustive has great presence and traffic in Brazil and therefore expects to see serious growth in this region during the upcoming Football World Cup and Olympic games.

Lessons learned from 3G

Cellular networks offer seamless access, generally good coverage and handover.  However when it comes to low density or high density areas, users face issues such as lack of coverage or saturation of bandwidth.

In central London or central Paris, it is common for users to gravitate towards bars or cafés in order to take advantage of their WiFi access because the 3G network is saturated. In the countryside there is the EDGE signal but then users face the same issue.

In addition, commuters worry about their data plans. They have been briefed by domestic operators to conscientiously switch off their smartphones’ data roaming capabilities the moment they cross the border in order to avoid outrageous international data roaming prices and subsequently, the nasty surprise of an expensive invoice upon their return home.

Economic pressure is forcing commuters to travel more and further afield in order to find new customers. The shift towards smartphones, tablets and accessing data in the “cloud” implies a need for more bandwidth at a reasonable cost and budget control wherever the commuter may be.

The reality is that mobile costs are significant. A trip may combine costs for access via multiple devices, involve domestic and/or international mobile data plans, the purchase of WiFi day passes at the different venues and travel hubs visited, all of which will be charged at different rates and potentially in different currencies. On top of the associated costs, there are several barriers to the adoption of public WiFi hotspots, such as authentication procedures, discovery of available networks and security. One UK operator recently reported that only 20% of its users access the free public hotspots available to them.

WiFi growth and the associated challenges

According to Informa Telecoms and media, the number of WiFi hotspots in public areas is set to more than triple by 2015, to reach a predicted 5.8 million.

The abundance of WiFi hotspots should not in any way detract from the difficulty associated with accessing hotspots in Asia and Europe due to multiple portal designs in different languages and the local implementation and interpretation of standards.

Seamless access which simplifies the user experience through a single and secure login for multiple devices, cost and budget control are all clear requirements addressed to Trustive and to mobile operators, to be fulfilled through clear a roaming plan and simple tools to connect.

This is why Trustive considers roaming to be a true opportunity in the immediate future. Although there are 340 million roaming trips per year, the number of users that make use of international WiFi is in the region of a few hundred thousand. This constitutes a major missed monetization opportunity for the present WiFi ecosystem.

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