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MWC 2011: China Mobile Wants Better Wi-Fi

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2011 -- Wang Jiauzhou, chairman of China Mobile Communications Corp. , the world's largest mobile operator by subscribers, kicked off the keynote session on Tuesday morning here in Barcelona by declaring the significance of Wi-Fi for boosting capacity and coverage in mobile broadband networks.

Given the increasingly important role Wi-Fi will play in cellular networks, Wang urged the wireless industry and device makers to make the experience better by adding more embedded Wi-Fi functionality into handsets and simplifying the user authentication process. (See Wireless Operators Embrace Wi-Fi as Their Own.)

The proliferation of smartphones and the introduction of tablets and dongles is causing explosive growth in data traffic on mobile networks, he said. "Operators are struggling to cope with their existing systems."

"Operators cannot cope no matter how much they try to expand capacity with 2G and 3G networks," Wang said. "Extending Wi-Fi coverage has proved to be a very important supplement to cellular networks. It can effectively alleviate data traffic [congestion]." China Mobile plans to have deployed 1 million Wi-Fi hot spots throughout China in the next three years, he said.

But using Wi-Fi access as a release valve for data traffic on cellular networks is more than a matter of just rolling out hot spots, he said, and specified two key areas where change is needed.

"I urge our handset manufacturers to provide embedded Wi-Fi functionality to make it the default function," he said. "Also, the authentication process is inconvenient. Easy Wi-Fi authentication is essential."

Wang also noted that China Mobile is in discussions with KT Corp. and NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) to work on international Wi-Fi roaming.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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