Is WiFi a threat to mobile operators?

As more people buy iPhones and iPads, and become disenchanted with the decreasing quality of mobile networks (especially with speed) and the increasing cost of data plans (no more “unlimited” plans), more people are using WiFi networks in cafes, hotels, restaurants and other establishments. Paul Rasmussen of FierceWireless Europe asks:

The threat to mobile operators is coming from the ongoing rise in Wi-Fi hotspots being deployed across the UK by heavyweights such as BT and the satellite TV broadcasters BSkyB . . . Operators need closely monitor these Wi-Fi offers because I believe they will prove to be attractive to users that have become frustrated by the lack, or poor performance, of 3G data services and the complexity of data tariffs.

What do you think?


  1. C.S. Puglio says

    A long old story. 10 years ago when wifi began to become widespread and 3G data services were coming to the market, wifi was considered a definite threat by operators. Then operators realized that wifi couldn’t offer the same service that a full-mobility solution offers, and wifi began to be seen in a positive light, whetting the appetite of consumers for higher speed 3G services. Now that 3G operators want to seize also the hot-spot non-mobile space, wifi once again becomes seen as a threat – but more so to 3G suppliers, since operators are beginning to co-opt the wifi service. I think one needs to consider the “competition” from a technical/TCO point of view. Wifi just doesn’t cost less to deploy/operate when you consider its limited power and inefficient use of spectrum. So in the end 3-4-5G will “win.”