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Cisco extols virtues of Wi-Fi

Network specialist calls for UAE, KSA operators to offload data to Wi-Fi, save millions

Dabboussi: The significant increase of mobile devices coupled with the seemingly insatiable demand for bandwidth creates an opportunity for providers.
Dabboussi: The significant increase of mobile devices coupled with the seemingly insatiable demand for bandwidth creates an opportunity for providers.

Cisco today unveiled the findings of the Cisco Consulting Services (CSC) study of four business models that it said will help mobile operators in the UAE and Saudi Arabia provide Wi-Fi to achieve "maximum results".

In both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, there are more mobile subscriptions than people; KSA mobile subscriptions reached 181% of the population in 2012, while the mobile subscription rate in the UAE surpassed 159%.

Mobile data is a big part of this growth, accounting for nearly half of UAE mobile subscriptions. In Saudi Arabia, wireless broadband subscriptions reached 11.7m in the third quarter of 2012, more than five times the number of landline broadband subscriptions. The fast-growing number of smartphone and tablet broadband connections is projected to consume more than 1.1 exabytes of data in Saudi Arabia, and 677 petabytes in the UAE, by 2017.

Demand for Wi-Fi has also grown substantially in the region since the early 2000s. The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) projects that global IP traffic transmitted over Wi-Fi will represent 46% of all IP traffic by 2015.

According to the CCS Wi-Fi study, this growth threatens to overload the capacity of regional mobile operators, who may be struggling to ensure availability of high-speed packet access (HSPA) and long-term evolution (LTE) spectrum.  Wi-Fi could hold the solution, transforming wireless Internet access by offering higher speeds, improved security, and more availability on almost any connected device, according to Cisco.

"The CCS Study outlines that mobile data offload will enable mobile operators to maximise the benefits of Wi-Fi through cost savings, revenue generation and improved services," Cisco said in an emailed statement.

"It is a viable alternative for serving mobile broadband users in crowded locations such as shopping malls, where spectrum availability for HSPA and LTE mobile access networks is limited. In addition, mobile data offload will give operators the opportunity to reduce data costs, allowing them to accelerate adoption and increase market share."


Cisco Consulting Services calculated cost reductions operators can expect between 2013 and 2017 under four offloading schemes. It claimed significantly greater savings as the percentage of mobile data offload increased.

"This model can help mobile operators in the Middle East reduce HSPA and LTE infrastructure costs by roughly 27% or $901m in Saudi Arabia and $316m in the UAE," Cisco claimed.

The company also cautioned that offloading data traffic to Wi-Fi requires significant investment. Cisco Consulting Services said that UAE mobile operators would have to invest $51.6m between 2013 and 2017 to provide Wi-Fi coverage to 916 buildings with total indoor space of 5,600 square kilometres and total outdoor space of 26,000 square kilometres for busy locations across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and Al Ain. Saudi mobile operators will have to invest around $94.6m to provide Wi-Fi coverage to 725 buildings with total indoor space of 7,000 square kilometres and total outdoor space of 69,000 square kilometres for busy locations across Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Khobar.

Costs are said to be less if mobile data traffic offload rates are reduced. Subsequently, to optimise the benefits of their Wi-Fi investments, Cisco suggested operators should take a strategic approach, with user experience and long-term efficiency in mind involving creating a detailed business model, conducting a network assessment as well as selecting the right indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi locations.

"One of the mandates of the governments of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE is to provide its citizens with universal access and connectivity," said Rabih Dabboussi, managing director, Strategic Service Provider Business and UAE, Cisco.

"The significant increase of mobile devices coupled with the seemingly insatiable demand for bandwidth creates an opportunity for service providers in the regions to help deliver greater anytime, anywhere accessibility. With more and more people, things, processes and data being connected in the Internet of Everything, the intelligent network and the Service Providers who adapt and enhance their offerings are more relevant than ever."