Dubai: Mobile operators across the Middle East are building WiFi networks to offload mobile data from cellular networks due to the growth in tablets and smartphones.
“The need to offload mobile data traffic to WiFi is set to grow at a robust pace through accelerated technology adoption and due to these, operators must consider WiFi as a key pillar of their growth strategy to increase revenues and cut costs,” Christian Jonsson, director of sales at Aptilo Networks Middle East and Africa, told Gulf News.
He said that mobile data offloading is about cost saving. Telecom operators not only save a lot on money by moving traffic from congested cellular networks [3G/4G LTE] to WiFi networks, they also increase the capacity of the network quickly.
According to Cisco’s analysis, UAE mobile operators will need to invest $1.225 million to expand 3G and 4G LTE networks by 2017 without offloading mobile data traffic.
Offloading 30 per cent of the overall traffic will enable mobile operators to reduce costs by 26 per cent in UAE to $316 million and 27 per cent in Saudi to $901 million in five years.
“Mobile operators must invest in 3G and 4G LTE networks to address this growth. WiFi networks take the load from 3G and 4G networks and WiFi networks are much cheaper than cellular networks. Every operator is seriously looking at complementing their networks,” said Jonsson.
According to ABI Research, users are expected to download more than 2.5GB of mobile data per month by 2018 in the Middle East.
The Saudi Arabian mobile subscription rate reached 181 per cent of the population last year while the mobile subscription rate in the UAE surpassed 159 per cent. Mobile data is a big part of this growth, accounting for nearly half of UAE mobile subscriptions.
“What we see happening in the industry overall and especially in the region is a tremendous uptake of new business models in the service provider space globally driven by three major innovation areas — change in technology, ability to put more bytes on fibre optics and technology development in devices,” said Rabih Daboussi, Managing Director and Strategic Service Provider Business and UAE, Cisco..
He said social messaging, high-definition video conferencing and cloud services moving to mobile space has added fuel to the congested bandwidth.
“We see WiFi as a very fundamental technology that does two things. It continues to allow in-building access to the networks and it is also a very viable alternative to 3G/4G offloads. So it allows deploying complementary technology of access alongside your traditional cellular networks,” said Daboussi.
The advantage of WiFi is the speed that it delivers and the costs associated with it, and will become the future of internet of everything.
“The need to build a complementary WiFi network to their 3G/4G mobile networks and offload congested cellular networks for premium connections and very critical connections is starting to explode,” experts said.
“What consumers want is faster speed at lower cost. On the enterprise side, WiFi connectivity inside the building and extension of WiFi to outside the building increases staff productivity on mobility. We see a great opportunity for Middle East telecom operators to capatilise on this,” said Daboussi.
When asked whether a huge investment is involved to deploy WiFI networks, Daboussi said mobile operators in the UAE need to invest $51.6 million between 2013 and 2017 to provide WiFi coverage across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and Al Ain.
According to Cisco’s analysis, mobile operators are challenged to provide coverage for 677 petabytes of mobile data traffic in UAE and 1.1 exabyte in Saudi Arabia by 2017.