Wi-Fi was tipped to play a central role in the success of 5G and be well-placed to support some of the mobile technology’s most prominent use cases, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) announced.

A study compiled for WBA by consultancy Maravedis found the level of confidence in Wi-Fi investment is at its highest-ever, with the technology becoming “crucial” to delivering high quality, high speed and low latency connectivity.

WBA stated there is now a growing consensus that 5G, unlike previous generations of mobile technologies, will rely on multiple Radio Access Technologies in unlicensed, shared and licensed spectrum which Wi-Fi will help to bridge.

The future development of Wi-Fi itself, which includes implementing new standards, will also improve performance and help to support 5G use cases including high density networks, extreme mobile broadband and aggregation of multiple frequencies, the alliance stated.

Adlane Fellah, senior analyst at Maravedis, said wireless use cases enabled by new technologies and spectrum in unlicensed and shared bands were laying the foundations for a 5G era “in which Wi-Fi will play a central role”.

Wi-Fi revenue
With regards to overall Wi-Fi investment, a survey of 200 operator, technology providers, wireless ISPs and roaming providers found 80 per cent of respondents feel as, or more, confident about the technology than in 2016, while 47 per cent feel more confident about unlicensed spectrum as a whole.

The report identified monetisation strategies for 2018, with local-based services the highest ranked at 37.5 per cent, followed by roaming (33 per cent) and marketing analytics (almost 33 per cent). Traditional use cases such as consumer data access and Wi-Fi offload are still central to many providers, while three areas were highlighted as potential near term revenue drivers: improving in-home experience and extending Wi-Fi use to smart home services; enterprise services; and expanding the roaming model.

Hospitality potential
The report noted businesses, like telcos, are now seeking to differentiate themselves around customer experience and Wi-Fi can enable this by meeting demand for high quality connectivity.

“Studies show that Wi-Fi has become the number one amenity sought by hotel guests and a vital criterion when selecting a hotel,” WBA stated in the report.

Hotels and brands use Wi-Fi to collect information on their customers for marketing, sales and operational purposes.