Can Wi-Fi Maintain Its Relevancy With Mobile Broadband?

With the onset of mobile broadband from almost every carrier, will Wi-Fi still have its place in the market?  Will it truly be needed once a broadband connection can be used- not only at home and in the office but everywhere else as well?  The wireless carriers say yes.

Beyond that, carriers are making strides to partner with broadband providers to offer access to hotspots all across the country in hopes of subsidizing their own networks and providing coverage in areas where mobile broadband signals aren’t the strongest.

Qwest, for example, has partnered with AT&T to offer its high-speed Internet subscribers free access to over 17,000 hotspots, it said recently, and Verizon Communications is getting ready to partner with Boingo Wireless to do the same.  Carriers and broadband providers alike believe Wi-Fi will always maintain its relevancy due to cheaper international data roaming, much better indoor coverage and the ubiquity of built-in support for the technology.

No matter how advanced and ubiquitous mobile broadband becomes, Wi-Fi will always compliment it nicely due to several advantages. The main one is lower cost.  Users don’t risk potentially astronomical 3G roaming charges, according to Matt Cooke, senior product marketing manager at network aggregator iPass.  In addition, Wi-Fi makes much more sense in scenarios where a 3G signal-booster would be needed for many people using one connection at once- such as a coffee house or conference center.

Other advantages include better in-building coverage and the possibility of higher speeds.  But as mobile broadband speeds continue to increase — using technologies including HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access), LTE (Long Term Evolution) and WiMax — the speed advantage will decrease.  However, in-building coverage may become even more important reason to stay with hotspots.

In-building support and the fact that Wi-Fi is already built-in to almost every wireless device made will solidify its place for a long time to come.