Australian mobile networks have long been victims of heavy congestion, but it will be a while before telcos consider offloading their data onto Wi-Fi networks, according to Aruba Networks.
In recent years, local 3G networks have experience performance deteriorating bottlenecks thanks to the ravenous uptake of smartphones and other mobile devices. Even with the advent of 4G networks, which have relieved the congestion slightly, most devices being used today are not 4G compatible.
Offloading some of the data through a Wi-Fi infrastructure is one way to ease the network clogs, and last year, Ruckus Wireless said that the time was ripe for telcos to start looking at that as an alternative.
But more than one year on, no progress has been made on that front, even though a number of carriers in Asia are considering offloading data traffic to Wi-Fi networks, according to Aruba's newly minted Australian Managing Director Steve Coad.
"I think it will take some time before that happens in Australia," he said. The Wi-Fi hotspot market is one that Aruba has experience in abroad and is looking to expand that in Australia, which has been slow in deploying hotspots.
The problem in Australia is that it doesn't have the same telco competitiveness as that of some Asian countries, according to Coad.
"Big existing carriers are reticent to 'eat their own baby', so to speak, by putting in Wi-Fi hotspots that would cannibalise 3G revenue," he said. "In Asian countries, there are at least three to four viable mobile carriers to choose from that all have extensive coverage across those countries, with a lot of traffic on their 3G backbone."
"It's killing their voice performance, so they want to get that traffic off at any cost, possibly through Wi-Fi."
Australia only has one or two carriers with extensive network coverage, so the competitive factors are there to compel telcos to go out and build Wi-Fi hotspots.
Some local telcos do have Wi-Fi hotspots dotted across Australia, but not many.
What will drive Wi-Fi hotspot deployments will be verticals, such as government and retail, both of which Aruba has a significant presence in locally.
In February, Hungry Jacks rolled out Wi-Fi hotspots across 340 locations across Australia using Aruba gear, with internet connectivity provided by Primus Telecom.
"Wi-Fi spectrum is free, whereas carriers pay billions of dollars for mobile spectrum," Coad said. "Infrastructure to build Wi-Fi is much cheaper than building 3G towers elsewhere."
"To me, Wi-Fi hotspot technology will take off in Australia, but it depends on when and what the catalyst will be."
On bad hotel Wi-Fi services
Many hotels are notoriously bad at providing adequate Wi-Fi services to patrons, but Aruba believes that this will be a thing of the past in the not too distant future.
"Hotels are an interesting market for us — a lot of them outsource their Wi-Fi services to vendors," Coad said. "We will increasingly see hotels take that in-house, as they want to be more vertically integrated with the services they offer."
Aruba Vice President of Asia-Pacific and Japan Gary Jackson said that he had spoken to a lot of 4-5 star hotels that are keen to improve their Wi-Fi services.
"They're finally seeing that they need to make Wi-Fi a value-added service," he said.