Carrier WiFi

Qualcomm Chips Away at Carrier Wi-Fi

For all the challenges associated with carrier Wi-Fi, it's good to see a steady stream of advancements at the device, network and even chip level.

Qualcomm's director of technical marketing Prakash Sangam revealed one such advancement in a recent blog. The chip giant plans to bake into future chips a new technology it's calling CnE, or connectivity engine, designed to tackle pesky issues such as firewalls, broken connections or overloaded networks.

CnE is compliant with both Hotspot 2.0, the technology the Wi-Fi Alliance is championing, and the 3GPP's ANDSF (Access Network Discovery and Selection Function), plus Qualcomm says it "goes beyond that by packing in many innovative algorithms."

These algorithms can estimate the performance of each available network without the user taking any action. Then, the chip selects the best link for the type of application that the user is running. It'll take into account not only which network is fastest, but also the quality of the signal, bandwidth available, latency and operator policies in case that app is restricted to cellular or has other parameters on it.

Qualcomm isn't revealing when CnE will be commercially available -- only noting that it's working hard to get it into a Snapdragon-powered smartphone soon.

The good news is that other Wi-Fi advancements seem to be coming along at a steady clip as well. The Wi-Fi Alliance has already certified 128 devices in its Passpoint Hotspot 2.0 program and is starting to certify devices for 802.11ac networks too. What's more, both iOS 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 support Hotspot 2.0, which means other smartphones will no doubt follow suite. (See Wi-Fi Alliance Begins Certifying 802.11ac.)

While I love any venue kind enough to offer free Wi-Fi, I'm consistently annoyed by how poor the Wi-Fi experience, especially the handoff, turns out to be. This isn't a new gripe, but it's one I'm increasingly confident I won't have this time next year. (See Carrier Wi-Fi: Always Best Connected.)

With advancements such as Hotspot 2.0 and ANDSF, and chip-level improvements like CnE, carrier Wi-Fi is well on its way to being a viable part of wireless operators' networks. Soon, I'll have to find something else to complain about, like all the new ads suddenly served up over Wi-Fi.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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