The carrier Wi-Fi market continues to burn brightly as mobile operators are using it to offload the heavy traffic from their 3G and 4G networks.

According to a recent report by Infonetics Research, carrier Wi-Fi equipment revenue, including carrier Wi-Fi access points and Wi-Fi hotspot controllers, increased 53 percent worldwide in 2012 from 2011.


Overall, the global carrier Wi-Fi equipment market was forecast by Infonetics to top $3.9 billion by 2017, primarily driven by mobile operators deploying carrier Wi-Fi for data offload

“The carrier Wi-Fi space is red hot right now, driven by the explosion in demand from mobile operators using Wi-Fi to augment their 3G/4G deployments and offload a portion of mobile data traffic to unlicensed spectrum,” said Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave and carrier Wi-Fi at Infonetics Research.

While cable operators in the United States have embraced Wi-Fi as a means to reduce customer churn and offer broadband on the go, some mobile operators haven’t been as bullish.

“Mobile operators by and large have held Wi-Fi at arm's length, fearing that it could cannibalize their opportunity to derive data revenues,” Webb said. “Now operators are embracing Wi-Fi to offload excess data and enhance the broadband experience for users. For the long-term success of carrier Wi-Fi, though, integration with the mobile network is key."

Other highlights from the report included:

• Cisco again led carrier Wi-Fi revenue share in 2012, followed by Ruckus Wireless and Ericsson; all 3 vendors achieved notable year-over-year growth

• Dual mode cellular/Wi-Fi access points began shipping in 2012 and are expected to undergo significant growth as more and more mobile operators build out carrier Wi-Fi networks

• While all world regions were experiencing robust demand for carrier Wi-Fi, Asia Pacific—especially China, Indonesia and India—will be the strongest drivers of growth through 2017

• Mobile operators are in the midst of a land-grab, rapidly claiming prime small cell locations by deploying carrier Wi-Fi and then later replacing the Wi-Fi access points with dual mode 3G/WiFi and LTE/Wi-Fi small cells.