|Issue:||Europe II 2010|
|Topic:||Smart offload for smartphones|
|Title:||Vice President, Corporate Marketing|
Steve Shaw is Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Kineto Wireless. Prior to joining Kineto, he worked as the Marketing Director of net.com and the Director of Market Development for Jetstream Communications. Mr Shaw began his career with Dialogic, eventually becoming the director of Dialogic’s CBF product line. Steve Shaw holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Southern California.
The popularity of smartphones has resulted in a surge in mobile data traffic. Mobile operators now need additional offload solutions to handle coverage and capacity demands. Although many mobile operators are already using Wi-Fi for offload, the initial solutions are often rather simplistic. Smart Wi-Fi offload solutions now available can improve indoor coverage and capacity, and enhance the user experience through a comprehensive service offload strategy.
A smartphone revolution is happing in the mobile industry. Consumers are drawn to smartphones due to their ability to access the Internet whilst on the move and at the touch of a fingertip. As a result, mobile networks are rapidly becoming saturated with a flood of mobile data. In order to cope with these demands on the network, operators need to find innovative ways to offload data, over and above the methodologies currently being deployed. Wi-Fi is one technology that is already utilised by operators for basic offload by simply routing web traffic to the Internet. However, due to the limitations of current offload technology, this approach does not maximise the full potential of Wi-Fi. Smart Wi-Fi offload is a step change in offloading, offering a full complement of premium mobile data services, along with voice and SMS, whilst taking advantage of the cost and performance gains from IP. The smartphone revolution Smartphones are the current phones of choice for consumers, making the Internet mobile and delivering on the promise of putting real time information in the consumer’s pocket. Today’s subscribers demand superior GSM mobile coverage. In addition, they expect high-speed access to mobile Internet services commensurate with their fixed broadband services at home and at the office. Yet the impact of meeting these requirements for mobile network providers has become overwhelming. One industry insider stated that smartphone users on his network consume 50 times more data bandwidth than traditional mobile phone users. AT&T in the USA, which has fully embraced the iconic iPhone, has faced the full brunt of the smartphone success. John Donovan, AT&T’s CTO, recently stated that since the iPhone launch “mobile data traffic has grown nearly 5,000% in three years.” This is the tip of the iceberg. RBC Capital Markets estimated that in 2009 smartphones accounted for just under 15 per cent of total handsets shipped. Yet by 2014, this figure will be more than 52 per cent, a staggering 804 million units. The effect of the bandwidth consumption of these smartphones on mobile networks will be staggering. Speaking at a recent conference, Paul Jacobs, the CEO of Qualcomm, made a convincing case that the only way to support the projected data demands of the mobile industry is for networks to become far denser. Wi-Fi: a smart choice for offload Wi-Fi technology is an unqualified success and can already be found in a wide array of consumer electronic products. Mobile phones, and in particular mobile smartphones, have been one of the fastest growing segments of consumer products to embrace Wi-Fi. In-Stat projects that 20 per cent of the worldwide Wi-Fi chipset shipments in 2010 will be to mobile phones and smartphones. Wi-Fi has a significant advantage as a technology for cellular offload because it operates at a frequency independent of mobile networks. Thus the proliferation of access points in the home does not interfere with the outdoor macro network. In addition WiFi is already widely deployed within consumers’ homes and offices. According to a recent European Commission study of EU households, more than 50 per cent of homes with broadband access already have Wi-Fi installed. Mobile operators have begun to embrace Wi-Fi for offload; however it is often rather simplistic. When a smartphone is connected to a Wi-Fi access point, it automatically routes web traffic to the Internet, without sending data over the cellular network. Whilst this does immediately relieve traffic from the network, it doesn’t enable the operator to get the full benefit of a complete Wi-Fi solution. First, by utilising Wi-Fi for Internet traffic only, an operator is not able to take advantage of Wi-Fi to improve cellular coverage indoors. Subscribers receive five bars of Wi-Fi coverage for web services but receive the ‘usual’ coverage from the macro network. There are instances where web services may perform better than the operator’s own services indoors. This is especially troubling if the user can’t make a mobile call, yet receives a clear Wi-Fi signal to place a VoIP call with Skype. Secondly, operators can’t use Wi-Fi to stream their own premium data/video or TV services to subscribers indoors. This is because basic Wi-Fi offload does not support a secure mechanism for authenticating and authorising a mobile device to access mobile services (premium data, video, audio, voice, and so on) over the Internet. Finally, using a basic Wi-Fi offload approach requires both the cellular radio and Wi-Fi radio to be powered simultaneously. The result is what’s known as a Wi-Fi ‘battery tax’. Two radios operating simultaneously drain the battery faster than one, yet both radios are required (Wi-Fi for Internet offload, GSM/3G for cellular) to provide a complete solution. This results in a disincentive for consumers to utilise Wi-Fi and impacts the full benefit mobile operators can achieve with Wi-Fi. Smarter Wi-Fi offload To overcome the limitations of basic Wi-Fi offload, a new ‘Smart Wi-Fi Offload’ solution has been developed that runs on the leading smartphone operating systems, including Android, iPhone, Symbian and Windows Mobile. Now mobile operators can take full advantage of the inherent benefits of Wi-Fi in order to execute a comprehensive service offload strategy – increasing network capacity and improving coverage. With a smart offload solution, mobile operators can offload all (or selected) mobile services from the macro network, including premium data applications such as TV or streaming audio, as well as voice and SMS. Operators may choose to begin with basic Internet offload, then add mobile TV or audio, and add voice and SMS to offload all mobile services to Wi-Fi. For subscribers, the solution works with the Wi-Fi access points already deployed in the home or office. The smartphone receives a strong signal from the Wi-Fi access point indoors, providing crystal clear voice calls over IP and high-speed data access, instead of struggling to deliver services to poor-coverage areas from the macro network. This enables subscribers to download an application that improves their mobile service experience at home, in the office, or even when travelling abroad. Perhaps most importantly, the smart Wi-Fi offload solution overcomes the Wi-Fi battery tax so common in basic Wi-Fi offload approaches. With basic offload, both the WiFi and GSM or 3G radio on the phone need to remain powered, causing an added power drain as a result of both radios being on and active simultaneously. The smart Wi-Fi offload solution addresses this issue by streaming all mobile services, particularly voice and SMS, over the Wi-Fi radio. It maintains a secure, managed connection to the mobile voice network over Wi-Fi. In this way, smartphones can place and receive calls over Wi-Fi, and GSM/3G is not needed for voice communications. When the Wi-Fi connection is active, the cellular radio is placed into a hibernation state so that there is just one radio drawing power. The approach relies on a 3GPP Generic Access Network Controller, or GAN-C, located in the mobile operator’s core network. The GAN-C connects to the operator’s existing circuit (Mobile Switching Centre – MSC) and packet (Serving GPRS Support Node – SGSN) infrastructure to ensure the delivery of the complete range of mobile services and applications. This provides a secure, managed connection, including SIM-based authentication, over the Internet to smartphones connected over Wi-Fi. The system also provides AAA-based service authorisation to ensure the right users get access to appropriate services based on a range of criteria, including location. Conclusion The smartphone revolution has arrived. Consumers are drawn to smartphones because they deliver the mobile Internet at the touch of a fingertip. Mobile networks are quickly becoming saturated with the flood of mobile data, and operators need smart offload solutions to quickly address exponential consumer demand. It’s creating new and bigger challenges for mobile operators. Wi-Fi is the ideal technology to help operators increase overall network capacity and improve the user experience. The new Smart Wi-Fi offload solution helps operators address the challenge of saturated networks in a simple and efficient manner, so mobile data services are not a privilege reserved to a small number of handset users, but a growing numbers of subscribers can be part of the smartphone revolution.