Light Reading
Seamless handoff is a big issue for carrier WiFi, but the industry isn't coalescing around one way to do it.

Carrier WiFi: The Handoff Tradeoff

Sarah Reedy
2/21/2014
50%
50%

Even as the number of WiFi hotspots across the globe continues to multiply, getting on those hotspots from cellular remains the tricky part.

Handoff and authentication have made the experience less than graceful for mobile users, although that's starting to change as new technologies emerge to make it a seamless process. The only problem is, it appears several new technologies are gaining traction, which could fragment the market for service providers.

Hotspot 2.0 is perhaps the standard about which there's been the most noise, but while it's racking up support in devices, carriers have been less enthusiastic. Dr. Derek Peterson, SVP of engineering for Boingo Wireless Inc. , an early proponent of the standard, says the service provider is in phase three of its Hotspot 2.0 trials with the Wireless Broadband Alliance , now working on policy configuration, so it can set rules on speeds offered, access points included, time of day, etc. Peterson says there is operator interest; it's just a matter of figuring out monetization models and signing contracts. (See iOS 7: The Next-Gen Hotspot Game Changer .)

"The table is there. The operators have even paid for some of the food, but haven’t started eating yet," he analogizes. "Some are trying to push it in their own networks, like KT Corp. and some cable companies. I wouldn't be surprised if we see something with them soon just because they are moving faster than the ones trying to protect their assets."

At the same time, vendors like Aptilo Networks AB aren't waiting for more operators to commit to Hotspot 2.0. Aptilo is working with operators on handoff via the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standard ANDSF (Access Network Discovery and Selection Function). Aptilo CEO Torbjorn Ward says the company has been doing SIM authentication with operators like Swisscom Mobile AG for six years now. While Aptilo will support next-generation hotspots, Ward doesn't share the enthusiasm.

"The politically correct answer is, 'We think it's very important, and it's an industry way to make it work, and yada yada,' " Ward told Light Reading of Hotspot 2.0 recently. "In reality… if you can already do a lot of these things, how important is that?"

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is also reportedly throwing another option into the ring. Engadget reports that it is working on a new iOS and Android app that will automatically authenticate and connect users to free hotspots, a good complement to its new relationship with Starbucks. (See Google, Starbucks Start AT&T Router Swap and Is Google the New WiFi of Coffee Snobs?)

And finally, an entirely new handoff alternative is emerging in multipath TCP or carrier bonding. The 3GPP tech, championed by Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and other big vendors, bonds together licensed and unlicensed spectrum, allowing for faster, more efficient data transfers by combining all the best networks the handset can support. (See Not Your Grandma's Carrier WiFi.)

"In the near future, whatever the time scale will be, we anticipate wireless operators will have to leverage licensed and unlicensed spectrum together as part of their offering out to mobile users," Mike Schabel, general manager of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s small cell group tells us.

In that case, handoff is rendered unnecessary because two networks are being combined, a phenomenon that InterDigital Inc. (Nasdaq: IDCC) VP Narayan Menon warns could take some control out of the operators' hands if it's happening at the app level.

All of these topics, and more, will be up for discussion at Mobile World Congress next week, where I'll be to get the pulse on which handoff style is winning and what tradeoffs operators are willing to make when it comes to their networks.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(9)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
smkinoshita
50%
50%
smkinoshita,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/22/2014 | 10:29:46 PM
Re: the WiFi divide
@kq4ym -- I think it will complicate and delay stanards.  Everyone wants to make the rules, regardless of motives.  I think we're going to see a lot of "unfriendly" competition.

Personally I'm not sure about Google.  They've got a history of not finishing what they've started and making some odd business decisions that sometimes pay off beautifully and other times turn into Wave.  (Although Google Hangouts is basically Wave 2.0)
pcharles09
50%
50%
pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/21/2014 | 9:57:15 PM
Re: the WiFi divide
They want to leave room for their partners & developers to do things. Build an ecosystem without trying too hard.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/21/2014 | 5:17:43 PM
Re: the WiFi divide
I think it's the huge footprint and automatic authentication process that makes it a bit more exciting than apps that locate hotspots for you.
Gabriel Brown
50%
50%
Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/21/2014 | 10:23:59 AM
Re: the WiFi divide
Re: Google. Is there anything to say this is more than just a connectivity manager client -- of which there are literally hundreds available -- to be downloaded from the Android App store?

The OS level optimizations for WiFi connectivity in Android have so far been abysmal. Worse than useless. The shame is that Google could do great things in this area.
Gabriel Brown
50%
50%
Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/21/2014 | 10:20:39 AM
Re: the WiFi divide
I agree with mendyk. Different motivations are driving different (proposed) solutions.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/21/2014 | 10:05:44 AM
Re: the WiFi divide
I think we saw the first inklings of that when Google announced it would replace AT&T at Starbucks. Its motivations are quite different -- ie. more ways to get customer data and serve up ads versus telcos who need WiFi to maintain the quality of their overloaded cellular networks -- but I'd hope they're mode of handoff would be compatible. 
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/21/2014 | 10:05:11 AM
Re: the WiFi divide
Motive is key to sorting out what's going on in WiFi and what's likely to happen in the inevitable "moving forward." And since motives vary, it's reasonable to guess that the cats will not be herded to a single standard.
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/21/2014 | 9:57:20 AM
Re: the WiFi divide
With Google entering the wifi field, I wonder if that will complicate and delay standards among interested groups. With the rush to gain footholds in the regulated and unregulated frequencies bands, there's bound to be some quite "unfriendly" competion out there.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/21/2014 | 9:44:52 AM
the WiFi divide
I think the hope is that all these carriers and vendors working on proprietary handoff solutions will also support Hotspot 2.0, which is the case in some instances, but not all. Ericsson is an example of another company working on proprietary handoff. Nice for its customers, but not helpful for moving the industry forward. 

There seems to be a divide already forming between the wireless operators and new groups like the WiFiForward initiative:http://www.lightreading.com/mobile/carrier-wifi/rival-msos-tech-rivals-unite-on-wifi/d/d-id/707737
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Light Reedy
Despite the launch of its new Passport smartphone, BlackBerry needs to embrace a future that's in M2M, messaging and enterprise services.
Vodafone's Dr. Alan Law talks to Light Reading about virtualization, backhaul, SON and more after being appointed chairman of the Small Cell Forum.
Wireless operators are jumping on the mobile music bandwagon, a move that sounds good for many reasons.
The worlds of tennis, fashion and wearables collide as Ralph Lauren and OMsignal turn a polo into a sensor to track your every movement.
The fine print on Sprint's new $60 plan suggests it can prioritize other plans' traffic first – a letdown, and maybe even a net neutrality violation.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Custom TV
Using Service Quality to Drive WiFi Monetization

10|22|14   |   6:51   |   (0) comments


Live from the SCTE conference: Heavy Reading's Alan Breznick explores the forces shaping the WiFi opportunity in an interview with CableLabs' Justin Colwell and Amdocs' Ken Roulier.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 2

10|21|14   |   8:51:00 AM   |   (0) comments


ARRIS CTO Network Solutions Tom Cloonan discusses why many if not most MSOs will continue with integrated CCAP, while addressing why some are also looking at two futuristic, distributed access architectures: Remote PHY and Remote CCAP.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 1

10|21|14   |   9:01   |   (0) comments


SCTE Sr. Director of Engineering Dean Stoneback discusses the pros and cons of distributed access architecture (DAA) and its various forms, which range from basic Remote PHY to full CMTS functionality in the node.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 2

10|21|14   |   3:58   |   (0) comments


ARRIS Senior Solution Architect Eli Baruch talks about how MSOs can enable public and community WiFi through 1) outdoor access points, 2) businesses seeking to offer WiFi to customers, and 3) residential WiFi gateway extensions.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 1

10|21|14   |   10:15   |   (0) comments


SCTE Director of Advanced Technologies Steve Harris discusses WiFi deployments, drivers, challenges and advances, including 802.11ac, carrier-grade WiFi, community WiFi, Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint, WiFi-First and voice-over-WiFi.
LRTV Custom TV
Advantech Accelerates 100G Traffic Handling

10|17|14   |   7:56   |   (0) comments


Paul Stevens from Advantech explains why handling 100GbE needs a whole new platform design approach and how Advantech is addressing the needs of equipment providers and carriers to give them the flexibility and performance they will need for SDN and NFV deployment.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Holland's Imtech Traffic & Infra Discusses Huawei's ICT Solution and Services

10|16|14   |   4:49   |   (0) comments


Dimitry Theebe is from the business unit at Imtech Traffic & Infra which delivers communications solutions for transportations. His partnershp with Huawei began about a years ago. In this video, Theebe speaks more about this partnership and what he hopes to accomplish with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Comprehensive Storage Solutions Vital for SVR

10|16|14   |   6:16   |   (0) comments


SVR Information Technology provides cloud services for academic and special sectors. With Huawei's support, SVR and Yildiz Technical University has established Turkey's largest and most advanced High Performance Computing system. CSO Ismail Cem Aslan talks about what he hopes Huawei's OceanStor storage system will bring for him.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mexico's Servitron's Impression of Huawei at CCW 2014

10|16|14   |   6:35   |   (0) comments


Servitron is a network operator in Mexico that has been in the trunking industry for the past 20 years. Its COO, Ing. Ragnar Trillo O., explains at Critical Communications World 2014 that his company has been interested in the long-term evolution of LTE technology and its adoption for TETRA.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Better Dubai

10|16|14   |   2:06   |   (0) comments


Abdulla Ahmed Al Falasi is the director of commercial affairs, a telecommunications coordinator for the government of Dubai. Their areas of service span across multiple industries, including police, safety, shopping malls and more. In this video, Abdulla talks about his department's work with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Lights Up Malaysia Partner Maju Nusa

10|16|14   |   1:59   |   (0) comments


Malaysia's Maju Nusa is an enterprise partner to Huawei in networking, route switches and telco equipment. At this year's Critical Communications World in Singapore, CTO Pushpender Singh talks about what Huawei's eLTE solutions mean to his company and for Malaysia.
LRTV Custom TV
Evolving From HFC to FTTH Networks

10|15|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Todd McCrum delves into the future of cable's HFC plant, examining how DOCSIS 3.1 and advanced video compression will extend its life and how the IP video transition will usher in GPON and EPON over FTTH.
Upcoming Live Events
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Analysts Warn of Major NFV Gaps
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/22/2014
Is Health the Killer App for the IoT?
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 10/22/2014
Drones Hover Over the IoT Sector
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 10/23/2014
1959 Newsreel: Make Phone Calls – From Cars!
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/24/2014
Meet the Phantom Network for NFV
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/23/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed