Carrier WiFi

Sprint, T-Mobile Test Ruckus's Refined VoWiFi

Mobile hotspot provider Ruckus Wireless is using its WiFi expertise to improve the quality of WiFi calling, or voice-over WiFi (VoWiFi), with new technologies it has reportedly tested with both Sprint and T-Mobile.

The company announced a slew of new Smart WiFi software updates on Monday that it says have been successfully tested with two of the biggest mobile network operators in the US. Ruckus Wireless Inc. Vice President of Corporate Marketing David Callisch wouldn't comment on who the operators are, but sources close to the company say they are Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US Inc. , which seems reasonable given they are the only two big operators that have deployed VoWiFi in the US to date. (See T-Mobile Turns Up VoLTE-to-WiFi Handoff and Taqua Lets Mobile Users Talk Over WiFi.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has said it will start supporting the capability in 2015, and Verizon Wireless has yet to outline its plans. (See AT&T to Launch WiFi Calling in 2015.)

Specifically, Ruckus's new VoWiFi tools, which will be integrated into its products and used in conjunction with its BeamFlex adaptive antenna technology, include capacity-based client access control, WiFi multimedia admission controls, directed roaming and automatic packet flow heuristics. (See Ruckus Virtualizes WLAN Management, Ruckus Takes On HP With Cloud WiFi Services and Who Cares About Wi-Fi Quality?)

  • Capacity-based client access control: If too many clients are already connected to an access point, Ruckus can decline connection requests from new clients to avoid service degradation for all.
  • WiFi multimedia admission controls: In order to prevent oversubscription of bandwidth, Ruckus ZoneFlex access points will require clients to request a specific amount of bandwidth before connecting. The AP will take into account its network load and channel connections before allowing new clients on board.
  • Automatic packet flow heuristics: Operators will have the ability to prioritize WiFi call traffic by constantly identifying voice packets and delivering them first.
  • Directed roaming: The 802.11v standard will be used to direct clients towards the WiFi access point that will provide the best user experience.

Read more about WiFi strategies on the dedicated carrier WiFi channel on Light Reading.

As an equipment provider, Ruckus can't control the WiFi experience in the mobile core, but Callisch says it's doing what it can to improve in the space it does own: unlicensed spectrum. He says voice is harder to deliver over WiFi because the voice package is super small and erratic. But by managing congestion and prioritizing WiFi calls with its new tools, the Ruckus man says operators can achieve a carrier-class calling experience, which necessitates seamless handoff and a high-quality connection.

"We're good at creating the pristine connection between the always-moving client to the WiFi network because of our ability to handle signaling and quality," Callisch says. "The service providers look to us to solve these problems."

There have been a number of vendors looking to help operators introduce WiFi calling to their customers, a service many are coming to expect as WiFi becomes more prevalent and high quality. Nokia Networks , for example, has teamed up with both Radisys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS) and Genband Inc. to build out its VoWiFi and voice-over LTE (VoLTE) offerings. Expect more action around the technology at Mobile World Congress where Ruckus will be showing off its new technology. (See Republic Welcomes More WiFi-First Action, Radisys Helps Nokia Enable VoLTE and Genband, Nokia Team Up on VoWiFi.)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

sarahthomas1011 2/13/2015 | 6:19:32 PM
Xirrus POV Xirrus is talking smack on Ruckus' offering. CEO Shane Buckley writes in an email to us:

Ruckus' Wi-Fi calling announcement this week further underscores the need for high-quality Wi-Fi that keeps pace with the increased demand on carriers and network providers alike. Unfortunately, one of the most fundamental requirements for high-quality Wi-Fi networks, application-level (layer 7) visibility and control, is absent from Ruckus' product offering. Application-level control provides a much more granular and broad-based control of Wi-Fi traffic, not only for voice, but also other application types. Additionally, it manages a variety of traffic on the same network and ensures all critical or delay-sensitive traffic (such as voice) receives the appropriate treatment.

mhhf1ve 2/10/2015 | 3:10:36 PM
Google MVNO Wifi-LTE handoffs? It'll be interesting to see how Google tries to handle voice over WiFi and at the same time also trying to handle T-Mo and Sprint network handoffs... Will Google need to create new handsets for this feature, or will they do it within a calling app (eg. google voice)?
sarahthomas1011 2/10/2015 | 1:58:54 PM
Re: call quality That's right, UmaFab. I'll update my comment -- I meant to say Sprint has not yet implemented the handoff, but T-Mobile has. It made a big deal of it when it (re)announced VoWiFi last year.
UmaFab 2/10/2015 | 1:54:55 PM
Re: call quality that's incorrect T-Mobile DOES offer VoWiFi to VoLTE handoff already starting with the iPhone 6.
JacobSDN 2/9/2015 | 10:26:26 PM
Re: call quality Whilst Sprint nor T-Mobile officially use VoWIFI with a handoff ability. It is already used successfully on Sprint's network via The MVNO Republic Wireless using the existing network.
Ariella 2/9/2015 | 12:11:48 PM
Re: call quality That's true. It's not going to really take off if people experience problems with the connection over WiFi.
sarahthomas1011 2/9/2015 | 10:15:34 AM
call quality The quality of the voice-over WiFi call is as important as the handoff to cellular, which Sprint doesn't yet offer (T-Mobile does). AT&T has said it's waiting for the call experience to be on part with cellular, so I wonder if they are far behind in testing and implementing Ruckus' improved equipment.
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