Light Reading Mobile got a hint about this new development some months back, which we reported in November. (See Stoke Working on Wi-Fi Offload Upgrades.)
The WiFi Exchange gateway, along with what Stoke calls "clientless internetworking" technology, "alleviates some of the pain points" of Wi-Fi offload for mobile operators, according to Dave Williams, Stoke's CTO.
The gateway, which sits between Wi-Fi networks and mobile operators' 3G packet core networks, is designed to: eliminate the need for software installations or hardware modifications on the mobile device; make Wi-Fi traffic more secure; and give operators visibility into Wi-Fi traffic, which enables them to stay connected with their subscribers when they're using Wi-Fi.
The proposition uses the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 's interworking wireless LAN (IWLAN) specification.
Operator trials are expected to begin in March.
Why this matters
Stoke's latest gateway attempts to turn Wi-Fi into more of a trusted access for mobile operators and take a big burden off devices, which is important as mobile data volumes continue to grow.
In addition, the announcement from a startup such as Stoke will also keep bigger equipment vendors on their toes, as they are probably working on similar offerings that will integrate Wi-Fi into mobile operators' existing systems.
"Bundled Wi-Fi is frequently now part of the service offer for high-end smartphone plans," says Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown. "This can make an operator more competitive and once it becomes part of the portfolio, it follows that better network integration is worth evaluating."
He adds: "The major change over the past year or so is that mobile operators have started to think about, and evaluate, Wi-Fi as a trusted access technology on a par with 3G and LTE. There is some way to go in terms of actually implementing Wi-Fi in this way, but it represents a sea-change in perspective. The approach that's getting support from progressive operators and vendors is S2a-based integration over GPRS Tunnelling Protocol (GTP) [a 3GPP Release 11 interface]."
Stoke's gateway and clientless interworking goes some way toward addressing that integration challenge.
Brown also notes that, "One advantage of making Wi-Fi a trusted access is that it offloads a lot of the impact on handsets because IPsec clients are not needed."
Wi-Fi integration is set to be a big theme at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year.
- Deutsche Telekom Joins Rush to WiFi Offload
- MWC Preview: Data Offload to the Rescue
- Telekom Austria Weighs WiFi Offload
- BelAir Small Cell Packs Backhaul Punch
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile