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By 2019 there will be 31.1 million carrier-operated Wi-Fi hotspots in use, globally, according to Real Wireless.

About 12.6 million of those hotspots will be connected as part of carrier Wi-Fi networks, at “carrier grade,” the study, commissioned by Bluwan, estimated.

At least six million of those carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspots will be deployed in the Asia-Pacific region.

Wi-Fi traffic will exceed mobile traffic in 2015 and Wi-Fi will exceed “fixed” traffic by 2018 on a global basis, Real Wireless estimates.

The affordability of backhaul to each of those carrier Wi-Fi network hotspots is an issue. “Carrier grade” connections will have to cost less than $1,000 per link, for example. Systems close to all the required performance specifications are available, offering 500 Mbps bandwidth and supporting up to 200 kilometer link distance.

Some will argue about what “carrier grade” means, though. Carrier reliability or other environmental or mechanical standards might, or might not, be available at less than $1,000 per link, at the moment.

Still, in volume, the price threshold is very likely to be met. The business model issue is whether the “sub-$1,000 per link” cost for a small cell is low enough to support likely business models in rural areas, as much sense as such technology makes for urban areas.

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