Wi-Fi has been the buzz word for 2015, an expected ask from every public space in our country; a hotel without Wi-Fi is unthinkable; our travel/everyday destinations are decided based on two questions - mobile connectivity and Wi-Fi. Trust me, the need for Wi-Fi is on its way to becoming synonymous with air and water - available and is taking! 

Wi-Fi technology has taken the telecom landscape by storm, reshaping and impacting strategies for many telcos including Tata Teleservices. Moreover, the government's Digital India initiative, launched earlier this year, to ensure that government services are made available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity, is expected to take flight in the next few years. So how will these developments and the accelerated rollout of Wi-Fi in all forms, both on the device and network side, impact our lives in 2016 and beyond?

There are some very interesting trends and innovations lined up next year. Here is a look.

Fortifying the Transit

Airports and railway stations are emerging as ideal locations for Wi-Fi consumption. This is true both in India as well as internationally. We will continue to see this trend gain more intensity in 2016.

Most of the Indian population travels in these modes of transport, and this makes it a huge opportunity for operators and carriers. Recently, an Internet giant has already started the ball rolling with a promise to provide free Wi-Fi at 500 railway stations. With more than 7000 stations and a daily footfall of 23 million passengers a day, this space is quite likely to generate a lot of interest in the coming years.

Smart up Your Homes

Here is a scenario: you are woken up in the morning with your favorite song; the shower is ready the moment you step inside and goes off when you step out; breakfast is made and clothes laundered and ready. You are happy and ready for work. No, I am not talking about your spouse but the home - the smart home! This is the future of Internet of Things.

The notion of the Internet connecting people and devices like never before is undoubtedly exciting, and ubiquitous, secure, and hassle-free Wi-Fi connectivity is the key. Unlimited Wi-Fi will be provided as standard with both hardware and software products, with people using it in the same way they use 3G/4G today - making smart homes and vehicles a reality.

Time-Shifted Video Content - Here We Come

Competition from mobile operators has forced cable operators/set-top box providers to provide more nomadic Internet access by deploying Wi-Fi. A leading DTH operator has launched set-top boxes (STBs) with recording ability and Wi-Fi dongles to enable consumers to enjoy recorded content on smartphones and tablets without consuming Internet data. This is a first of its kind innovation in line with current audiences, who consume a large part of their content online. We will most definitely see a lot of action in this space next year.

Visualize a scenario: You have 40 minutes before your flight departure from the airport. The Wi-Fi operator at the airport offers you a reasonable-priced movie or site on download. You consume this content on your smartphone/tablet or during your flight.

Next-Generation Wi-Fi Calling

Companies have already begun work on next-generation Wi-Fi calling. Apple's iOS 9 provides Wi-Fi calling support. Google has announced Project Fi, a Wi-Fi first model of delivering services where instead of the cellular network being the traditional first network, you subscribe to a plan which has Wi-Fi as the core network and cellular as the backup. Wi-Fi calling may have been around for quite some time but we can expect some innovative solutions coming up in this space next year, when operators and OTTs start working together to revamp voice calling.

Rise of LBS

The demand for location-based technology (LBS) is evolving in India as it personalizes the Wi-Fi experience. Learning more about users provides telcos with a wealth of data for different marketing activities. It is a useful tool for retailers to create an engaging shopping experience for their customers. Also fueling the shopping experience is the large number of malls in Tier-I and Tier-II cities, which are open to the concept of public Wi-Fi services. In 2016, LBS will enable new features and opportunities around local search, retail, social networking, and advertising.

Innovative and Socially Impacting Uses of Wi-Fi Technology

One of the most interesting uses of Wi-Fi technology was built by a young entrepreneur duo from Mumbai - A Wi-Fi Trash Bin! The duo created a simple trash bin where as soon as someone puts in a required amount of trash, the bin generates a Wi-Fi pass code, which gives the person free Wi-Fi. The dustbin uses multiple technologies. The first is the Wi-Fi technology that optimizes to make sure that all the generated codes work properly. The second is the technology used for motion sensing and figuring out how the trash comes in and its movement. And the third is the entire bridge between the motion sensor and the Wi-Fi network to ensure that they connect at the right time. This simply shows that a technology like Wi-Fi is simple and effective and can be used for social impact and development initiatives as a part of the Smart City and Digital India campaigns.

Wi-Fi Offloading Becomes an Imperative

As more and more service providers decide to roll out 3G and 4G in 2016 to tackle bandwidth and large-scale use, service providers will rely more on Wi-Fi offloading. Wi-Fi offloading is expected to become more intuitive in 2016, with traffic steering allowing the devices to connect to Wi-Fi only under optimal conditions. Wi-Fi might become an equal network in the heterogeneous network concept, where the main focus will be on providing the best possible service experience and performance to end users.

Wi-Fi technology is a very good tool to provide seamless service experience and performance regardless of networks. 2016 might just take this technology to a hitherto unknown level of innovation.

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