An economist would conveniently say "It depends!"
However, I believe Wi-Fi would be a significant high-performance access technology that many operators will embrace. In the US, both ATT and VZW are doing that. Not only does it move us closer to the promise of ubiquitous access/services, but also provide a great way to offload macro cellular networks. In parallel, end users are becoming more familiar with Wi-Fi, including its configuration, and infrastructure vendors are delivering intelligent connection management and plug-and-play capabilities. 802.11U with service advertisement protocol will also accelerate adoption.
The cost aspects are clearly in the favor of Wi-Fi. A $50 home router can provide cable/DSL modem, Wi-Fi, as well as a 4-port Ethernet Switch! Taking all the huge traffic from apps such as Flickr, YouTube, video downloads, and user generated content, on to the macro cellular network, at this juncture, disrupts the business models. Why not offload at the expense of the wireline carrier in your home?
Or if you are a mobile operator, why not strike a deal with the cable operator to jointly market combined services?
But nothing comes for free. Wi-Fi power consumption is significantly more than traditional celluar networks. I have heard stories of dual-mode phone users charging their phones 2-3 times a day! Clearly, standards for power management will evolve.
Are mobile operators losing minutes/revenue because of the Wi-Fi usage? Or is it a blessing?
How does Femto fit into this equation? Licensed spectrum the mobile operators control?
If you are both a wireline and celluar operator, how can the synergies drive incremental revenue?
Would love to hear from our operator friends on this community!