Mobile Internet Offload Grabs the Limelight

Pressure on wireless operators mounts with growing data traffic, and more wireless operators turn to Wi-Fi and small cells for relief

June 6, 2011

3 Min Read
Mobile Internet Offload Grabs the Limelight

Mobile Internet offload has been around as a concept for a while now, but it's become a priority for wireless operators with the rise in popularity of smartphones, which generate exponential increases in data traffic. In general, mobile Internet offload uses differing forms of wireless technology -- picocells, femtocells and Wi-Fi -- to provide data connections, relieving the pressure on the more limited cellular bandwidth.

A new Light Reading briefing center, located here, will look at multiple aspects of this trend over the next three months.

Within the last year, Wi-Fi, in particular, has emerged as a key offload method. Widely deployed in broadband homes and in public locations, Wi-Fi had been the bane of wireless operators' existence, because the networks existed outside of their control and were thought to threaten revenue. Now, multiple operators are deploying thousands of hotspots, most intended to provide connectivity for the growing number of data-enabled mobile devices. Here's a look at our recent coverage of carrier Wi-Fi deployments:

  • Ruckus Makes Over KDDI With Wi-Fi Offload

  • Wi-Fi Offload Set to Boom in India

  • Wi-Fi Ruckus in Wallingford

  • Telstra Picks Ruckus

  • DT Builds Wi-Fi Roaming Network with iPass

  • YSU to Provide AT&T Wi-Fi on Campus

  • BT Offers Wi-Fi Access iPad App

  • Clearwire Launches Clear Wi-Fi Modem

  • FT, DT Team on Customer Benefit

  • Boingo WiFi Available on MetroPCS Androids

  • T-Mobile to Work With Wi-Fi for Indoor Coverage

  • Sprint & ZTE Intro 3G-WiFi Sleeve

There are issues around using Wi-Fi offload, however. Losing visibility of users when they move onto Wi-Fi networks threatens the wireless service provider's ability to control the customer experience. A new generation of equipment, including policy management gear, is being developed to give wireless operators more control over Wi-Fi offload, over how and where it is used. Take a look at what the vendor community is up to:

  • Wireless Operators Embrace Wi-Fi as Their Own

  • Wi-Fi Gets Direct

  • Sicap Intros Always-on Device Management

  • AudioCodes Debuts VoIP Wi-Fi Biz Suite

  • Huawei Offers IDEOS in India

  • Wipro, Continuous Team Up

  • Roke Makes Smart Phones Smarter

  • Shoring Up Security in a Wi-Fi World

Recent research conducted in South Korea showed smartphones there were within Wi-Fi coverage areas 63 percent of the time and remained in those coverage areas an average of two hours, an indication that Wi-Fi offload is already widely used on an unmanaged basis, especially in a country with such dense Wi-Fi coverage. You can read an assessment of that research by Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown here or read the researchers' report here.

Wi-Fi offload is only one option that wireless network operators are pursuing to address the wireless data bandwidth problem. Among the others are use of femtocells and picocells, adding to the cellular network. Here's a look at recent activity in that realm:

  • Picochip Extends SK Femto Deal

  • AirWalk Raises $10M

  • Octasic Unveils HSPA+ Small Cell Chips

  • Octasic Does HSPA+ Femtos, Picos

  • Mindspeed, CEVA Tackle LTE

  • T-Mobile to Join 3G Femto Fray

  • Verizon's LTE Doesn't Need Femtos Yet

  • Femto Watch: Verizon Launches 3G Femto

  • BelAir Pitches Wi-Fi/3G Picocell At Cable

What may emerge is the "HetNet" -- which is explained here. We can explain it further:

  • Study: Small Cells to Dominate 4G

  • Get Hip to the HetNet

  • MWC 2011: The End of the RAN as We Know It?

  • Huawei Demos HetNet at MWC

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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