Wi-Fi’s bright future: Works like Cellular, Works with Cellular

March 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Q: Do you ever notice when your mobile phone “roams” into other cellular networks? No? Good!
Imagine Wi-Fi working the same way, as a seamless extension of your cellular service.

Seamless Cellular + Wi-Fi will become the norm. You may be already enjoying this, if you are served by one of the leading Operators that have been delivering this, in advance of industry standards. In the U.S., if you have an iPhone from AT&T, you have been enjoying the automatic use of over 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots for years without ever thinking about it. In Japan, KDDI delivered a similar solution in 2011 with their metro Wi-Fi networks complimenting their cellular service. KDDI’s “au Wi-Fi SPOT Service” gives Subscribers “Instant On, No-Touch Access” with over 100,000 hotspots planned throughout Japan.

Now that the industry has collaborated to create a standard to make Wi-Fi a seamless extension of your cellular service, it will be rapidly adopted by many Operators. The initial standards are ready, and products are already being delivered (from handsets to Wi-Fi networks to inter-carrier roaming services to Mobile networks). Cisco already has delivered compliant products to Operators (see “Cisco Next-Generation Hotspot Technology Delivers Seamless Mobile Experiences“), including a successful Trial with PCCW in 2011 (see “PCCW mobile Becomes World’s First Operator to Successfully Complete Commercial Next Generation Wi-Fi Hotspot Trial“).

Multiple organizations have collaborated to deliver Cellular roaming onto Wi-Fi: Where the device connects to the Wi-Fi network, the technical standards are produced by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and they refer to these features as “Hotspot 2.0”, while the business networking solutions are produced by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, and and they refer to these features as “Next Generation Hotspot.” To coordinate this solution with the mobile networks, the WBA is working with the GSM Association to incorporate the standards into their reference documents.

Wi-Fi Grows Up, an looks like Cellular

Here’s how Wi-Fi is growing up to deliver the same, seamless use that you enjoy on cellular networks: (for more, see Sue Rudd’s recent report, “WiFi Hotspots will be Small Cells in Mobile Broadband Networks by 2015” and a summary can be downloaded here)

This will give Subscribers all the benefits of Wi-Fi plus the ease of use of Cellular.

Q: Will I pay more to use Wi-Fi?
A: No. You will not pay more to use Wi-Fi within your own country/market. Currently, Operators are not charging subscribers for use of Wi-Fi, as it is not a separate subscription or feature, but a benefit available to all data users. Operators see this is a competitive advantage, to draw users to their networks, since Subscribers have increasing desired that Operators provide this service. Subscribers have been manually connecting to Wi-Fi, and relish the automated use of Wi-Fi (ADD reference to Movidia study).

Q: Can I use Wi-Fi to reduce the cost of International Roaming?
A: Yes. Initially, Wi-Fi is being deployed as an extension of the cellular coverage in your market (“Data Offload”). Subsequently, Operators will make roaming deals to enable you to similarly use Wi-Fi when you travel internationally, which should make using data far less costly.

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