With mobile data demands higher than ever thanks to tablets and smartphone usage, it is no surprise that carrier Wi-Fi is increasingly being viewed as a way to offload data and deliver on customer needs.
“It has become a strategic imperative for operators to implement carrier-grade Wi-Fi core infrastructure and systems,” noted a recent white paper, WLAN Gateway: Foundation to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience, by Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), which offers mobile gateway and wireless packet core solutions. “They are also discovering the advantage of leveraging unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum to expand their service footprints. While they are typically using carrier Wi-Fi access equipment from more than one vendor, they are ultimately integrating their carrier Wi-Fi applications onto a common carrier Wi-Fi core.”
There are a number of ways that carrier Wi-Fi is being deployed, including layer 2 wholesale Wi-Fi service, retail carrier Wi-Fi service and layer 3 wholesale, and carrier Wi-Fi cellular interoperability.
Wireline and wireless operators are leveraging carrier Wi-Fi with retail service providers for use with their carrier infrastructure. The WLAN Gateway (News - Alert) provides a layer 2 connection from the AP back to the retailer, and all UE requests and traffic are passed back to the retailer as layer 2 traffic.
“The retail service provider has the direct business relationship with end users and retains responsibility for issues such as user authentication and IP address assignment,” noted the Alcatel-Lucent paper, and “the WLAN Gateway can perform ingress and egress shaping on the service set identifier (SSID) based on the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the retailer.”
The second way that carrier Wi-Fi is being deployed is as for retail carrier Wi-Fi service at layer 3 wholesale. In this deployment scenario, the carrier Wi-Fi service operator has the business relationship with end users, so the retailer needs mechanisms to authenticate the end user, assign an IP address, and create a user context for accounting and billing, according to Alcatel-Lucent.
The third deployment scenario for carrier Wi-Fi is using it for cellular interoperability. It is another retail carrier Wi-Fi service opportunity where operators can use the WLAN access to ensure uninterrupted connectivity and mobility between carrier Wi-Fi access networks and cellular infrastructure.
“Wi-Fi usage and the number of Wi-Fi access points are rapidly increasing and a range of carrier Wi-Fi market applications beyond hotspots is emerging,” noted the paper.
With mobile access on the rise, this comes as little surprise given scarce spectrum and the widespread availability of the Wi-Fi technology.
Edited by Peter Bernstein