Global Wholesale

How MNOs can successfully monetise inbound and outbound wi-fi roaming


09 December 2016

Steve Dyett

Blogs by author:  Steve Dyett , Head of Global Wi-fi Solutions, Wholesale Portfolio Development, BT.


By Steve Dyett
Head of Global Wi-fi Solutions
Wholesale Portfolio Development, BT

BT’s Wi-fi Roam is an innovative service to enhance wi-fi roaming, addressing the needs of users, operators and roaming partners, allowing the operator to provide a managed policy based user experience. Monetisation of the own customer base as well as the domestic wi-fi network can be combined with a quick and low-capex approach to offer global wi-fi roaming as part of an integrated cellular roaming portfolio. Sounds compelling? It sure is – and we tell you how.

Why wi-fi roaming is important for you as an MNO.

Overall, global mobile traffic grew by 74% in 2015 and it is forecasted to increase eight fold over the next 5 years. Smartphones represented 36% (up 7% from 2014) of total global handsets in use in 2015, but represented nearly 90% of the total global handset traffic.

By the end of 2015, more mobile data traffic was offloaded from cellular networks than remains on cellular networks*.

Over the last year, average smartphone usage grew 43% to 930MB per month by the end of 2015, this growth will continue with nearly a five-fold increase forecast by 2020. Tablet usage growth continued with the average device nearly three times as much usage as the average smartphone. Wi-fi is now embedded in a very significant proportion of all mobile devices including not only cellular handsets but also other devices such as laptops, tablets.

User trends drive wi-fi adoption.

There are a number of trends expected in the short term

  1. User expectation of wi-fi experience to be just like cellular – easy automatic authentication and switching between wi-fi networks
  2. Push back against high cellular roaming charges – expectation of a competitive plan to include data roaming at no or only minor additional cost plus no bill shock surprises
  3. Need for content filtering by policy e.g. age or inappropriate / illegal – parents want their children safe wherever they roam
  4. The increase in deployment of and growing use of wi-fi calling – as mobile phone operating systems now integrate wi-fi calling users expect their MNOs to seamlessly support it from a technical and commercial perspective
  5. The inherent need for security when accessing wi-fi networks – users want to have their devices protected against viruses or Trojans, identity and data theft, especially with mobile payment on the rise

Wi-fi Roam helps you maximise the wi-fi opportunity.

BT Wi-fi Roam’s aim of delivering to the international roaming market is based upon the evidence that international travel is still increasing by on average 4% year on year growth with over 1.2 billion travellers being recorded in 2015. Against, this backdrop even with the current available technology, international roaming still faces huge challenges for the end user, the mobile operators and for wi-fi providers alike. For the end user, these challenges can include trying to find good quality hotspots, signing-in using webpages and potentially in a different language. Having to enter credit card details onto a small screen and not receiving a smooth user-friendly service. What end users are shouting out for is a one-stop solution from their service provider using a friction-less user experience without having to register or manually sign in first. For the Service provider especially mobile operators, BT Wi-fi Roam allows a route to add value to customers by providing them with a managed service that they want to use. It reduces the number of “silent roamers” where the user turns off their mobile data roaming to prevent high charges, they now have an integrated alternative directly from their MNO.

Increased satisfaction means increased roaming.

By focusing on this very tangible need, BT Wi-fi Roam that encompasses five new patents is innovatively enabling the vision of next generation roaming, tackling wi-fi roaming challenges effectively and efficiently. BT offers advanced automatic wi-fi international roaming services to end users over its IPX based BT wi-fi roaming hub, directly benefiting Mobile Operators and their end user, by providing incremental revenues from roaming and a significantly improved customer relationship through offering a viable managed roaming option. The recent launch of the home routing of end user traffic via the Global IPX network on the BT service transforms the wi-fi roaming experience; enhances the user experience through the ability to have comparable services to that enjoyed whilst using cellular. So valuable services such as policy, charging and other home service provider options such as buying top ups and access to secure portals/extranets become available whereas they are not in legacy wi-fi roaming. These new approaches include,

  • Monetisation of prepaid users, which historically have not been able to use Wi-fi roaming, but now the mobile operator is able to directly manage this user experience via BT’s home routing option
  • QOS management over the IPX section of the session especially useful in services such as Wi-fi Calling create additional benefit to all
  • BT’s Wi-fi Roam allows a service provider to treat a third party wi-fi network (where there is an agreement) as part of it trusted access network and implement appropriate policy

Add wi-fi roaming but reduce complexity at the same time.

For the mobile operator BT Wi-fi Roam reduces operational complexity and allows the mobile operator to integrate Wi-fi footprints into their roaming business strategy. Using standard mobile data roaming interfaces reduce the need for new network integration lowering operational expenditure and make additional capital investment unnecessary. For end users, the secure access to wi-fi networks is authenticated faster; provides a visible indication of security/trust and generates value in their service provider by providing with a facility allowing them to access their valued services in an appropriate manner. The BT service has recently launched further options: mobile operators can now authenticate and manage their end users using their existing Diameter systems to control their end users access to visiting wi-fi networks. When coupled with the ability to home route end user data traffic, which will allow mobile operators to manage their end user quality of experience comparable to current cellular roaming.

BT is continuously adding wi-fi footprints to its service. This opens additional opportunity for an MNO to monetise its own domestic wi-fi hotspot network through support of inbound wi-fi roamers from 3rd party MNOs in parallel to offering its own end users outbound roaming services. As a result, a vibrant eco-system is created that complements the existing cellular roaming relationships and offers 360 degree business opportunities in 2G, 3G, 4G and wi-fi – a clear differentiator to using simple wi-fi aggregation services, especially as it comes to commercial settlement for new services, such as VoLTE and VoWi-fi. The BT Wi-fi Roam service is providing a distinctive, innovative and enriched wi-fi roaming service. One that provides benefits to end users through the ability to access services including capabilities, which are not available via conventional means, when they are abroad in a manner in which they feel comfortable from a single Service Provider that can provide them with the one-stop solution that meets their needs.

Contact us to find out how you can maximise the wi-fi opportunity or meet us at Mobile World Congress early next year. Our colleagues from the BT/EE roaming team look forward to discuss it with you.

Data sources:

Cisco VNI: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast 2015-2020 (April 2016)
Informa Cellular trends 2015 (October 2015)
United Nations World Tourist Organisation 2015 Highlights (Jan 2016)