WiFi still useful in South Korea’s advanced mobile market – Boingo

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Hotspot specialist insists WiFi still the most cost effective way to bolster wireless capacity; talks up Next Generation Hotspot potential.

WiFi still plays an important role in highly-advanced mobile markets like South Korea, insisted hotspot aggregator Boingo this week.

“Even with the deployment of LTE…WiFi is essential for maintaining the quality of the user experience,” Christian Gunning, vice president of corporate communications, told Total Telecom on Tuesday.

U.S.-based Boingo works as a hotspot aggregator, brokering deals with carriers to give Boingo customers access to operators’ WiFi hotspots. Today, Boingo users can connect to 700,000 hotspots worldwide.

In South Korea, Boingo has, over the last three years, signed agreements with KT Corp, LG Uplus, and most recently SK Telecom, giving it a footprint of more than 150,000 WiFi hotspots there.

South Korea “is probably one of the most advanced broadband markets in the world”, said Gunning.

Yet despite the deployment of LTE and in the case of SK Telecom, LTE-Advanced, WiFi is still something consumers expect, he said.

“There are still some cases where it is easier to deliver high bandwidth through WiFi than cellular,” claimed Gunning, such as some indoor locations.

“WiFi is also a much more cost effective way of dropping in a lot of capacity. It’s almost a rounding error compared to the cost of deploying a cellular network,” he said.

“Users are acclimated to high bandwidth,” Gunning continued, noting that the government’s recent decision to roll out free WiFi nationwide is “a natural extension of that modality.”

Gunning also said end users and devices are becoming increasingly “network agnostic”, and the work being done by the Wireless Broadband Alliance on its Next Generation Hotspot programme means that eventually mobile customers will have little awareness of what kind of access network their handset is connected to, provided there is enough bandwidth.

“Fast forward three-to-five years and [WiFi] will be a seamless extension of what they already do on cellular,” he predicted.