Mobile operators warm to Wi-Fi


By Selina Lo, president and CEO at Ruckus Wireless

Operators in Western Europe operators need to save $30 billion in mobile access network costs between now and 2016 according to latest research from Analysys Mason. The research firm points to Wi-Fi, in a small cell configuration, as the cost effective alternative to building new base station sites.

Analysys Mason recommends that a mixture of outdoor and indoor Wi-Fi access points should be used to augment existing capacity. Luckily, mobile operators now see Wi-Fi as an integral component of an integrated mobile data network.

Originally operators were reluctant to adopt Wi-Fi, preferring to focus on their own licensed spectrum. However, mobile networks do not have the capacity to deal with mobile broadband traffic growth. Wi-Fi is a technology that is familiar with consumers, and businesses alike, and operators now recognise the need to integrate Wi-Fi into their networks; to enable data offload and provide subscribers with uninterrupted data access across 3G, Wi-Fi and even 4G (LTE).

The mobile landscape is changing dramatically, as operators make the transition from providers of voice, messaging and data, to become mobile broadband providers. Wi-Fi provides operators with the scale, and the capacity, to meet the growing demand for data services; as the proliferation of smartphones and tablets increase.

The latest developments in Wi-Fi technology allow operators to install dual mode access points that that support both Wi-Fi and cellular frequencies. This automated equipment can also make precise calculations to assess where capacity is needed the most, say to support a tablet streaming an episode of Sherlock in HD, while still reserving bandwidth for other users in close proximity.

Wi-Fi even provides operators with a cost effective option to support mobile backhaul. Ultimately a combination of Wi-Fi access points, femtocells, small cells, and mobile phone masts will comprise an integrated network, which will allow subscribers to roam between cellular and Wi-Fi networks; without the need for authentication, or the end user having to change their device settings.


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