Last month, Virgin announced a major expansion of its Wi-Fi hotspot network, with the investment intended to challenge BT’s dominance of the Wi-Fi space. In this blog post, Real Wireless Expert Ade Ajibulu looks at how Virgin could be taking advantage of the latest Wi-Fi technologies to offer a game-changing service.

With BT boasting more than five million hotspots, most of them via home routers, Virgin has some catching up to do. Cost is certainly a key part of the decision, with network capacity only getting more expensive at the same time as mobile data use goes through the roof.

This move could however be a complete game-changer, opening up new revenue streams taking multi-play offers to the next level, disrupting the plans of the traditional MNOs and maintaining customer loyalty in the face of competition from disruptive players such as Sky and TalkTalk.

The key is in taking advantage of cloud-based Wi-Fi cellular integration tools coming to the market, which promise to deliver cellular-like quality of experience on hybrid networks and which, unlike bespoke software solutions, scale with the size of the Wi-Fi network.

Video services are an integral part of the offering, and any expanded Wi-Fi network will need to deliver the same quality of experience and reliability as the cellular network.

For this to work, the network requires performance optimisation and automated fault recovery techniques, plus seamless handover and full integration between cellular and Wi-Fi. This means that subscribers can experience the same content and services over any device, regardless of location and on the move, and that it is immaterial whether a user is on the cellular or Wi-Fi hotspot network.

Up until now this has been technically difficult and expensive.

However, with emerging technologies such as Hotspot2.0/Passpoint, this is set to change. These can support seamless handover along with a new generation of cloud based services, providing a full range of cellular and Wi-Fi integration and performance management techniques.XCellAir is one of a number of companies currently providing such a service.

It would reduce reliance on the EE network, without having to acquire spectrum or having to acquire all the mobile network engineering expertise to operate carrier grade networks. It would also bring significant revenue opportunities at a time when a number of issues are being thrown up by BT’s proposed acquisition of EE.

In order to make the most of the proposed move, now is the time for Virgin to be considering these services.

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