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O2 & BT: Data Demand Deals Capacity Blow

by david.nunes

Data Growth Forces Operators to Think Capacity

UK mobile data traffic is set to grow by more than 400 per cent by 2016, according to Adrian Di Meo, CTO at O2 UK and he has recently enlisted BT help to bolster its network infrastructure ahead of its 4G rollout later this year. Grim-faced CTOs worldwide are all wondering how to quench the insatiable demand for mobile data and how they will maintain margins. But while billions are spent upgrading mobile networks, a vast, growing, freely accessible and much higher capacity Wi-Fi network lies unexploited in almost every town and city.

David Nowicki, CMO of Devicescape, believes that publically available, amenity Wi-Fi can fill the void. Millions of public and private sector organisations positively encourage mobile users to freely connect to the inherently much higher capacity fixed line network via amenity Wi-Fi access points. In London, for instance, it is estimated that approximately 24% of Wi-Fi access points are either completely ‘open’ or available via a sign up routine. That network of access points has 50-100 times the capacity of your mobile operator’s data network. It is the biggest network in the world, it grows larger by the minute and there is no reason why it can’t be used to meet the coverage and capacity demand.

That is exactly the model now being adopted by forward thinking US mobile operators using a continuously curated network of 12 million international Wi-Fi hotspots created by DeviceScape (www.devicescape.com). Nowicki believes that a massive global network, formed from the millions of amenity Wi-Fi access points already deployed in our public spaces, can and should be used to address the demand for mobile data coverage and capacity.

If you would like to discuss how operators can take advantage of the vast, growing and freely accessible amenity Wi-Fi services, please do let me know. Nowicki can discuss:

· Amenity Wi-Fi services – how operators can provide its subscribers with single-sign-on to access one of the world’s largest network

· The impact this will have on data capacity and the services that operators can provide

· Case study examples from the US and how Devicescape is leading the way in providing data capacity to the masses

Data Demand Leads Operators Down the Wi-Fi Path

Everybody wants data access everywhere. Wireless demand is outstripping capacity. In response, more carriers are integrating Wi-Fi into the core RAN and discovering not just that it solves capacity issues but that it offers real opportunities for monetisation. The Cloud has announced a roaming agreement with AT&T that will allow U.S. mobile users visiting the UK an automatic connection to its 16,000 strong hotspot network. More recently O2 has joined forces with BT and is looking to bolster its network with the use of BT’s 4G spectrum and Wi-Fi network. This is the view of Steven Glapa, director of marketing, for Ruckus Wireless, a provider of advanced wireless systems for the mobile Internetworking market. Glapa believes that capacity and monetisation issues are closely connected, driving the carrier need for smarter Wi-Fi that increases the range and variety of wireless signals.

The demand is being driven by smartphone users and the game-changing impact of LTE; industry estimates suggest sales in the order of a billion units in 2013 creating a world in which the need to authenticate and log-on, depending on location or radio access technology, is going to be old hat. Wi-Fi will simply weave into the fabric of the world’s mobile networks – backhauling traffic into the mobile packet core. This approach requires a gateway that can bridge the world of the Wi-Fi RAN to the core – a cellular make-over that changes the service experience for subscribers and opens up revenue streams for carriers.

Subscribers aren’t concerned about nuances in radio access technologies; they just want the same set of services wherever they are without having to get into the admin of sorting out their connection. Carriers, of course, are concerned – this is where the ARPU is slipping away. So, if Wi-Fi is bridged into the core, carriers can exercise greater control over billing (pre-paid and post), policy, lawful intercept, roaming, authentication, addressing, mobility management, and content filtering, to name but a few key areas. It even opens up the possibility of session persistence as a user moves between the 3G/LTE RANs and the Wi-Fi RAN.

According to Glapa, using a gateway to connect Wi-Fi into the core also provides another sort of gateway – into new service enablement – an area where the cellular world excels. Platforms will become available through the gateway approach that can be used for analytics, reporting, location based services, personalisation, loyalty programmes and other similar initiatives that derive their effectiveness from a carrier’s ability to keep the subscriber in the fold. There was a time when mobile carriers viewed Wi-Fi as handy to have around. It soaked up problems here and there; providing extra capacity at crunch times, providing offload opportunities in the same way as a steam valve lets off the steam. Open the valve and the pressure drops – the problem goes away. But, the carriers were largely unprepared for their customers to evolve so quickly, with devices that demanded so much, so constantly, so diversely and so universally. Now everybody knows the meaning of the word data, because they pay for it, they subscribe to have it. Everybody wants access.

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