Light Reading

Carrier Wi-Fi: Always Best Connected

Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
5/13/2013
50%
50%

Wi-Fi is a great technology -- I love it. (Well, like it a lot.) So much so, in fact, that I’m leading Light Reading’s 2013 Service Provider Wi-Fi Industry Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to look at how network operators can scale and accelerate investment in Wi-Fi -- and, of course, why they should.

The technology is well suited to indoor mobile data consumption -- that much we know. And the fact that around half of smartphone data usage is already over Wi-Fi today explains why operators should engage. There's also an opportunity for operators to better exploit the product volume that characterizes the Wi-Fi ecosystem, and the Wi-Fi R&D investment paid for by other people. It's not quite a free ride, but the economics can be compelling.

Let's take it a bit easy on the hype, however, and ask why a majority of operators -- and specifically mobile operators -- haven’t yet made the big bet on Wi-Fi investments? (There are one or two notable exceptions, of course.) Fundamentally, the reason is that the way Wi-Fi works in smartphones today puts it squarely outside the mobile operator's sphere of influence.

One area that crystallizes this issue is connectivity management, and the tendency for smartphones to automatically connect to "bad Wi-Fi" that interrupts, and even breaks, the user experience. Consider the following scenarios, where a smartphone, under its own auspices, might detach itself from a functioning mobile network in favor of "broken" Wi-Fi:

  • Border conditions. Most of us will have experienced being on the very edge of Wi-Fi coverage (in the garden, example), or where there's interference from neighboring access points, and performance is poor as a result. Yet the device still reaches to connect.
  • Skinny backhaul. Wi-Fi is a high-speed radio interface (under the right conditions), but that doesn’t matter much if it's connected to a slow Internet connection. Anyone who's ever tried to use hotel Wi-Fi knows what I’m talking about.
  • On the move. Automatically connecting to known Wi-Fi SSIDs at bus stops, rail stations, traffic lights, or the like might not be the worst thing in the world, but it is annoying.
  • Overloaded networks. Where devices connect to networks that, while not saturated, may already be heavily used, resulting in poor performance for the user and everybody else attached to that access point.
  • Associated but not authorized. You’ve visited this Wi-Fi SSID in the past, so your device attaches automatically, but does not actually connect to the Internet until you log in or pay via captive portal. Again, annoying.

Scenarios such as these explain why mobile operators have preferred to take a hands-off approach and why, to date, they have tended to see Wi-Fi as a tactical rather than strategic technology. Smartphone vendors, meanwhile, have added manual on/off "Wi-Fi toggles" to their devices, and like operators, have been content to excuse themselves from getting involved in what they see as somebody else's problem.

This state of affairs is not a catastrophe, but it feels like a compromise and fudge. The solution is for operators, together with the industry at large, to work to automate network selection and connectivity management. By ensuring that users are always best connected, operators can better take advantage of Wi-Fi technology and economics.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

Psst: As part of Light Reading's 2013 Carrier Wi-Fi Industry Initiative, I'm hosting a webinar on Accelerating & Scaling Carrier Grade Wi-Fi on Tuesday, May 14, at 12 Noon EST. Click Here to Register.

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
As the quest toward the Gigabit City continues, it is becoming clearer that public-private initiatives may be the key to success.
Interest in the commercial drone industry is growing and technology is developing quickly. This is laying the foundation for a range of future drone-based applications, including the use of drones in communications networks.
The telecom industry's move to SDN and white box deployments is driving significant changes in the switch market. These changes will likely lead to lower capex and opex costs for network operators in the market.
Alcatel-Lucent is close to taking carrier Ethernet switch/router market-share leadership away from Cisco.
Communications network operators need to formulate an IoT strategy and decide if Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology has a place in those plans.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Then pick up your axe, put on your spandex trousers and get yourself down to Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE). Kerrang!!!
LRTV Custom TV
Meeting the Demands of Bandwidth & Service Group Growth

5|1|15   |   5:35   |   (0) comments


Jorge Salinger, Comcast's Vice President of Access Architecture, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 and multi-service CCAP can meet the demands of the bandwidth and service group growth.
LRTV Custom TV
DOCSIS 3.1: Transforming Cable From Hardware-Defined Network to Software-Defined Network

4|29|15   |   03:48   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 can transform cable HFC network to a more agile software-defined network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Predicting Traffic Patterns for Quality Mobile Broadband

4|29|15   |   6:45   |   (0) comments


Accessing information ubiquitously creates complexity and creates heavy traffic onto the network, especially at large-scale events like sporting events or festivals. In this video, Huawei's Mohammad Hussain speaks to experts about how to predict traffic and improve user experience during periods of heavy traffic.
Between the CEOs
Ciena CEO: The Web-Scale Revolution

4|28|15   |   10:32   |   (3) comments


Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders goes head-to-head with long-time Ciena CEO Gary Smith to discuss the impact of the web-scale players, the New IP and 'white box' networks.
LRTV Documentaries
Cox Eyes Cloud-Based Home Networks

4|27|15   |   05:30   |   (0) comments


Cox's Jeff Finkelstein explains how moving services to the cloud will let cable deliver services faster and eliminate constant hardware replacements.
LRTV Documentaries
CableLabs' Clarke Updates Cable Virtualization

4|23|15   |   05:41   |   (1) comment


Former BT exec now leading CableLabs' NFV and SDN efforts explains key role of open source and updates efforts to virtualize the home network.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. II

4|23|15   |   08:19   |   (1) comment


In the second installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about cultural change, network slicing and technology advances.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. I

4|23|15   |   09:27   |   (3) comments


In the first installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about the incredible transformation underway in the communications networking industry.
LRTV Documentaries
LTE Paves the Way for the 5G Revolution

4|20|15   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


Håkan Andersson, head of 5G product strategy of the Radio Business Unit at Ericsson, discusses the role of LTE, the US and other industry verticals in building a true 5G ecosystem.
LRTV Documentaries
The 3GPP's Road to 5G Standardization

4|17|15   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


Satoshi Nagata, chairman of the 3GPP's TSG-RAN group and a manager at NTT Docomo, explains the standardization process for 5G, as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu CTO Makes the Case for a New 5G Air Interface

4|16|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Michael Peeters, CTO of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, explains why 5G will require a new air interface to meet its diverse performance targets.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu + Nokia: The New Uber-Vendor

4|15|15   |   2:42   |   (4) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown discusses the technological and competitive opportunities and challenges if a merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia comes to pass.
Upcoming Live Events
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
In its latest survey covering network operators' plans and strategies for ICT transformation, Heavy Reading asked telecom operators worldwide to identify the most important goals and objectives for their ICT transformation initiatives. Heavy Reading also asked operators about the importance of a "digital first" strategy, which enables customers to complete an interaction across different digital channels, such as web and mobile self-service and social media.
Hot Topics
Eurobites: Nokia Quashes Handsets Rumor
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 4/28/2015
Verizon Builds Key Vendors Into SDN Strategy
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 4/28/2015
Why Is Verizon Fighting With Programmers?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 4/28/2015
Astellia Highlights Customer Care Disconnect
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 4/29/2015
T-Mobile Beats Sprint on Subs, Eyes Verizon on Network
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 4/28/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders goes head-to-head with long-time Ciena CEO Gary Smith to discuss the impact of the web-scale players, the New IP and 'white box' networks.
Many leading communications companies can claim to have undergone significant periods of reinvention during their histories, but none have been through more major ...
Cats with Phones
Working With What You've Got Click Here
"It's pretty hard to answer these things without thumbs!"