MWC 2012: Wireless Tapas

5:05 PM -- Industry-wide moves to shrink and combine wireless technologies so that users can get access via 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi is continuing apace ahead of the massive mobile show in Spain next week.

The most obvious current signal of this combo platter future is Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s plan to buy Wi-Fi provider BelAir Networks Inc. The vendor intends to site Wi-Fi radios with its cellular base stations to deliver better Wi-Fi connectivity for smartphone users.

That's by no means the only example of more advanced integration plans out there right now though:

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is putting Wi-Fi on the same chip as its Atom processor -- under the code name Rosepoint -- in a move that will likely help to make smaller and more efficient mobile devices.

  • Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s latest cut of its Gobi processor, meanwhile, supports both twin-channel (FDD) and single-channel (TDD) LTE as well as HSPA+ and CDMA EV-DO 3G.

  • ip.access Ltd. and TE Connectivity (NYSE: TEL) have combined a small cell with its own distributed antenna array (DAS). This comes the week after ip.access revealed a combo LTE and 3G small cell.

  • Ruckus Wireless Inc. plans to announce its foray into all-in-one 3G/4G/Wi-Fi small cells at next week's show.

I suspect we will see a lot more integration talk at Mobile World Congress. Although of course, talking about multi-modal wireless is a lot easier than delivering it. We should be looking at how well users can hand off and authenticate as these multi-headed networks become more commonplace.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:41:56 PM
re: MWC 2012: Wireless Tapas

I agree that authentication is important, which is why I was surprised to hear Ruckus' VP say operators don't care about it and won't for several years. Right now the experience isn't very good - I always get stuck on bad networks and have to turn Wi-Fi off or my phone fumbles to find it in the first place. I think it needs to be a bigger priority for operators.

Flook 12/5/2012 | 5:41:50 PM
re: MWC 2012: Wireless Tapas

Aside from the obvious advantages, just wondering if these combo products will be more economical to produce than discreet devices...

sglapa 12/5/2012 | 5:41:49 PM
re: MWC 2012: Wireless Tapas

Sarah -- I think there may have been some confusion in your conversation with our man David (Callisch), which was no doubt his fault.  We do see operators pursuing a two-phase approach to setting up and maintaining network access, and the distinctions might have gotten lost in his translation.  Let me see if I can help.  In the immediate term, you're absolutely right, automatic authentication or sign-on for Wi-Fi networks is super essential, so the user's experience of getting on the network is the same on Wi-Fi as 3G -- i.e. your device just takes care of it for you.  Our operator customers who have been doing 3G offload via Wi-Fi for a while now have found that this is a clear prerequisite for broad adoption, and all the operators who are getting in the game now agree.

The "phase two" part of the story, and potentially the source of confusion here, is seamless handoff between the cellular and Wi-Fi networks, which means maintaining a constant IP address as your device moves from one network to the other to avoid interruption of streaming applications.  Here we see plenty of current operator interest in understanding how this will be handled someday, architecturally, but virtually none in actually *implementing* seamless, constant-IP-address inter-network handoff in the near term.  Operators generally see this as a low-ROI activity, for now, because it requires new, expensive big iron in the mobile core to implement, but it's applicable to only a small minority of subscriber use cases in which operators have any financial interest -- since revenue-rich voice stays on 3G, and the occasional youtube video hiccup is just not a big concern.

Steven Glapa, Sr. Director of Marketing, Ruckus

fecklish 12/5/2012 | 5:41:47 PM
re: MWC 2012: Wireless Tapas

The context was not AUTHENTICATION, it was seamless roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi networks. This is what everyone wants....to be able to have a cell call and transparently switch to Wi-Fi.  But this is a LOOOONG way off and most operators just want to solve their immediate capacity and coverage issues.  That was the context.

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