Global revenue for carrier Wi-Fi access points and controllers will reach $2.2 billion in 2017 to reach a level equivalent to almost one-half of the traditional enterprise or consumer Wi-Fi segments in the same period, says research firm ABI Research.
The majority of the total market in 2011 was accounted for by Cisco , Ruckus Wireless, and Ericsson /BelAir, and as traditional mobile infrastructure vendors add Wi-Fi to their portfolios, these early market share rankings will fluctuate. Carrier Wi-Fi is defined as Wi-Fi that is provided as a service to mobile carrier customers, owned and operated directly or indirectly by the carrier, e.g. a third party hotspot provider.
“While carrier Wi-Fi is still in relative infancy today, the drive by mobile operators to offload data traffic is providing a significant boost to this segment of the market,” says Nick Marshall, principal analyst, mobile networks at ABI Research  (London).
The rollout of carrier Wi-Fi has been hampered up until now by the lack of standards which make the process seamless and transparent for the subscriber.
“We believe that with standardization initiatives well under way, like Hotspot 2.0 and the almost universal inclusion of Wi-Fi in every smartphone, PC, and tablet being built today, carrier controlled Wi-Fi is expected to see wide-scale adoption, especially in markets like North America, Japan, and South Korea,” says Marshall.
Additionally, the use of increasingly sophisticated connection managers, which aggressively seek out validated Wi-Fi access in accordance with the service provider’s policies, will accelerate this trend, says ABI Research. Thanks to this trend, carrier Wi-Fi data traffic offloaded is expected to grow to around 30% by 2017.