Towerstream’s Chief Working Officer Mel Yarbrough lately contributed an article to Join-World: North America 2011 about how 4G networks and Wi-Fi should work collectively to ensure that wi-fi operators to satisfy growing cellular broadband capability. Join-World is a discussion board the place wi-fi and telecom trade leaders contribute their views on probably the most urgent points within the trade.


4G and Wi-Fi: Altering the Wi-fi Sport

With the flexibleness to deal with voice, knowledge, and video over Web Protocol, 4G networks are undoubtedly altering the cellular broadband panorama in profound methods. However with cellular knowledge visitors anticipated to extend 39 instances by 2014, and new knowledge hungry smartphones and tablets coming to market in overwhelming numbers, how can these next-generation wi-fi networks sustain with the crushing quantity of information being consumed by cellular customers? As knowledge hungry cellular gadgets proceed their enormous adoption curve, its changing into clear that service class Wi-Fi networks are required as a knowledge offloading complement to 4G networks. In actual fact, as the key carriers proceed to construct 4G networks, Wi-Fi knowledge offloading will grow to be much more accessible, and the potential for 4G networks to make offloading of decrease margin bits will grow to be a actuality.

In keeping with latest numbers from international analysis agency IDC, smartphone producers shipped 100.9 million gadgets worldwide within the fourth quarter of 2010, an 87.2 p.c enhance from the 53.9 million models that shipped within the last quarter of 2009. This represents the primary time smartphones have surpassed PCs by way of variety of models shipped in 1 / 4, and Google’s Eric Schmidt lately predicted that PC gross sales wouldn’t catch up. In keeping with Schmidt, “the cellphone is the brand new PC” and he recognized the smartphone as representing the way forward for video games, productiveness, apps, and extra.

Additional contributing to the pressure on wi-fi networks is the growing market penetration of tablets gadgets. In actual fact, Yankee Group expects over 63 million tablets to be in use by 2015. Furthermore, Google’s Android OS has lately skilled fast progress, powering each important system launched at this 12 months’s Cell World Congress and rivaling Apple’s iOS platform for market management. Demonstrating its vast consumer adoption, Google says it’s now activating over 300,000 Android-powered gadgets every day, with 170 whole gadgets available on the market.

It’s obvious that the wi-fi trade is evolving to a degree the place customers count on seamless entry to the Web no matter system, and it’s only a matter of time earlier than Web-enabled cellular gadgets are ubiquitous. This fast penetration of data-hungry smartphones and tablets is already having a major impact on community hundreds, and as cellular gadgets proceed to extend in numbers, networks will grow to be much more congested. For instance, based on Cisco, a smartphone generates about 24 instances extra knowledge on a wi-fi community than a typical characteristic cellphone, whereas a pill generates a staggering 122 instances extra knowledge consumption than a primary characteristic cellphone.

To deal with these anticipated will increase in cellular knowledge visitors, the key wi-fi carriers are investing billions of in 3G and 4G community infrastructure. Nevertheless, these investments usually are not anticipated to totally relieve the present pressure on wi-fi networks in congested areas with excessive ranges of cellular broadband utilization. Verizon has reported that its LTE improve will enhance knowledge capability by 4 instances, however cellular knowledge consumption is anticipated to develop at a a lot quicker charge — as a lot as 39 instances by 2014, based on Cisco’s Visible Networking Index. Extra strikingly, Huawei, a Chinese language telecom supplier, expects the worldwide stage of cellular knowledge visitors to rise 500 instances by 2020. As such, it must be clear that present 3G and 4G networks by themselves usually are not ample to deal with this staggering enhance in knowledge consumption.


Wi-Fi Features Momentum

In keeping with Deloitte, the amount of information uploaded or downloaded from cellular gadgets through public Wi-Fi networks will develop by 25-50 p.c in 2011 — a lot quicker than the expansion of information carried over mobile broadband networks throughout this similar time. Video is the key driver of this knowledge visitors progress, as customers are consuming an ever growing quantity of video with smartphones, tablets, and different cellular gadgets. In actual fact, Deloitte predicts that Wi-Fi is prone to grow to be the default community for video purposes.

As lately as 4 years in the past, Wi-Fi enabled handsets didn’t have vital mass. Nevertheless, the introduction of the iPhone disrupted the wi-fi trade and Wi-Fi is now ubiquitous in cellular gadgets coming to market. Extra lately, Wi-Fi has grow to be important to the consumer expertise for smartphones and tablets. And since an growing variety of smartphone and pill purposes run solely on a Wi-Fi connection, entry to a quick and dependable Wi-Fi community is changing into crucial for smartphone customers. Consequently, gadgets and carriers will want entry to dependable Wi-Fi networks to supply customers a extra full consumer expertise.

The proliferation of Wi-Fi hotzones in addition to seamless hand-off capabilities between networks and gadgets are contributing components to the anticipated enhance in Wi-Fi utilization over the approaching 12 months. In actual fact, Towerstream’s pilot Wi-Fi program in Manhattan has demonstrated the unbelievable demand for a service class Wi-Fi community from customers of smartphones and different related gadgets in extremely congested areas. As we transfer our Wi-Fi initiative into its subsequent part this 12 months, we now have set a objective of finishing 1000 entry factors in Manhattan by mid-year — contributing to what we imagine would be the quickest moveable community in Manhattan.

Moreover, Wi-Fi progress can even doubtless be pushed by the transition of cellular suppliers providing “all-you-can-eat” cellular knowledge plans to ones with a capped month-to-month utilization. For example, one hour of streaming video at 500 kb/s would eat up the complete allowance of a month-to-month knowledge plan capped at 200 mb. Additionally, in anticipation of a crush of recent iPhone customers being supported by its community, Verizon lately introduced plans to penalize its heaviest knowledge customers with decreased throughput speeds for the present and following billing cycles. Insurance policies like these will encourage customers emigrate to Wi-Fi networks as an alternative of dealing with the prospect of information speeds grinding to a halt.


Simplicity is Key in Wi-Fi Offloading

It’s clear that Wi-Fi knowledge offloading has the potential to grow to be a cheap and simply accessible resolution for the key wi-fi carriers to alleviate the crushing pressure on their networks from excessive quantity cellular broadband customers. Nevertheless, there are some potential roadblocks that have to be resolved earlier than Wi-Fi offloading is extensively adopted.

Whereas it’s obvious that Wi-Fi offloading is an answer that may transfer the needle on the information congestion downside, there have to be a seamless mechanism for cellular suppliers to switch knowledge from their broadband networks to Wi-Fi. Finish customers mustn’t must authenticate their handsets manually or be pressured to go browsing to a Wi-Fi community. As an alternative, consumer knowledge must be seamlessly pushed from the service to the system, with the service doing the legwork of interacting with the net of networks on the back-end with none vital exercise by the tip consumer. Simplicity is vital, and serving to to bolster the argument of Wi-Fi offloading as an efficient mannequin is the truth that most smartphones are outfitted with computerized log-in capabilities with Wi-Fi entry already configured. For instance, Extensible Authentication Protocol (or EAP) is a really elegant resolution for carriers to seamlessly hand off gadgets to a Wi-Fi community.


Wi-Fi Enhances Mobile Broadband

The cellular Web revolution is the largest disruption the wi-fi trade has seen in a long time. As cellular knowledge visitors continues its exponential progress, it’s essential for wi-fi operators to determine a sustainable resolution to assist this visitors. Whereas the variety of cellular broadband subscribers reached 600 million on the finish of 2010, it’s anticipated to virtually double this 12 months to a billion and climb to 5 billion in 2016. To assist this staggering progress, it has been estimated that cellular community capability might want to enhance 20 to 25 instances to deal with this rising load.

The battle between mobile broadband and Wi-Fi shouldn’t be considered as a zero-sum recreation; as an alternative each fashions may be winners. In an effort to proceed to supply prospects distinctive service, cellular suppliers should supply a spread of wi-fi and wireline applied sciences and assist their prospects faucet into the suitable combine to go well with their explicit wants. The objective for carriers must be to make the complete related expertise as seamless as doable for customers by way of each next-generation broadband networks and Wi-Fi deployments.


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