Aricent recently hosted a webinar titled “Wild About WiFi”. In this webinar, we talked about why service providers are so bullish on Wi-Fi. We discussed about carrier-grade Wi-Fi and its drivers. Subsequently, we talked about mobile data offload scenarios in trusted and untrusted WLANs. We concluded our discussion with an overview of Aricent’s framework for Wi-Fi Data Offloading. Given the huge number of questions asked on topic of Carrier Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi offloading during the webinar, we were not able to answer every one of them live, so we’ve addressed them below.
What is the definition of carrier grade Wi-Fi and why is it important?
Simply put, carriers are used to highly reliable, predictable and manageable systems (OAM). Same characteristics need to be built into Wi-Fi managed by Carriers. In addition, mobile operators need seamless integration and roaming between Wi-Fi networks and mobile networks.
That is `not the definition of Trusted Wi-Fi – Trusted WLAN is a term bestowed by operators when they feel a WLAN is secure. The GSMA does not specify trusted beyond this – and this should change…..
Today’s Wi-Fi equipments have good security mechanisms. But, security mechanisms provided by one hotspot owner may not be trusted by another mobile operator and hence, the mobile operator will anyway go for a secure mechanism like IPSEC on top of it. You are correct that many operators even today use Open authentication with external authentication via portal. This is more to do with inability manage policies and keys.
Are there any agreements between MSOs and MNOs for Wi-Fi roaming?
We have not seen any agreements between MSOs and MNOs till now.
Is the 20% growth in WLAN worldwide or US only? What is expected to happen after 2016?
The bandwidth of Wi-Fi will reach that of 1G Ethernet. This will make Wi-Fi more acceptable for much usage. Hence it is expected to continue unabated but interference and potential health concerns from Wi-Fi radiation can dampen the growth. Please look into other market projection for more in-depth analysis.
In developing markets like India, what is the adoption rate of Wi-Fi offload by wireless operators? In populated areas, when there is already lot of local Wi-Fi operators occupying un-licensed spectrum, what are challenges for having dedicated Wi-Fi bandwidth for Wi-Fi offload for wireless broadband operators – where there are lot of operators operating in same cell area?
This is already happening. Some hot-spot operators who had first mover’s advantage have better coverage. Hence, new operators including mobile operators are looking to take advantage of these deployed hot-spots. This is part of Whole-sale market.
When is 802.11u expected to be available?
Mobile device support is important for its popularity. Android and Apple iPhone are making it default. This will result in wide spread adoption of 802.11u in very near future, maybe, in next 1 year.
How do MSOs choose the locations for Wi-Fi deployment? Is it based on people traffic or data usage at a location?
Based on my understanding, it is density of mobile users that determines the location of Wi-Fi spot -malls, downtown, railway stations, and airports.
For untrusted WLAN, local offload, what is required from the UE to offload some traffic locally but connected to the EPC at the same time?
The current standard does not define using local breakout and EPC access simultaneously. It is expected to be supported in the standard in near future.
How big is the concern of interference in Carrier Wi-Fi due to the use of unlicensed spectrum?
It is a major concern because mobile user expects the same quality and reliability whether Wi-Fi or mobile netowork is used. Unlicensed spectrum might have constantly changing interference levels – A new hotspot might be added, new residential complex might come up with lot of APs, hotels might come-up adding to Wi-Fi interference. Airport and Defense establishments produce high strength interferences, human traffic might increase at a particular time causing RF absorption etc. Flexibility of using both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz helps to mitigate this. Intelligent RF Management is the key for carrier Wi-Fi success.
Is possible that LTE or 3G system cellular systems will replace Wi-Fi?
Not in this decade but technically feasible – Voice over IP QoS improvements in Wi-Fi equipments and improvements in RF management are the key. Other aspects like high-availability will automatically follow.
Where within the shown architectures is the customer experience managed. EAP-SIM/AKA devices will connect to APs that may be congested or have a weak signal (they are far away). If a device seamlessly connects to such a Wi-Fi AP then the user experience may not be so good.
The mobile clients join based on multiple criteria – one is the signal strength – this already happens in enterprise networks and do not see a major change for carrier-Wi-Fi. If one SSID signal is strong but does not support offload but supports local breakout another SSID supports seamless roaming but the signal is weak, then it will currently fall on the mobile phone client software to make this decision.
Are many WLAN vendors allowing interoperability with Controllers and APs?
Based on traction, operators prefer interoperability primarily to re-use existing deployments. New vendors in this area prefer interoperability to enter the market. Some existing established vendors are supporting interoperability but the features are limited. Interoperability seems to encourage controller centric design – Powerful and stateful controller with flow based and state-less AP design.
What do you think will be the effect of Comcast opening up its home STB Wi-Fi to other Comcast users?
Wi-Fi set-top boxes operate in 5 GHz and they eliminate the wire between the STB and the TV (the TV has external Wi-Fi receiver). Technically it can broadcast to multiple receivers. The receivers will have the billing information, secure card etc. The setup box will become huge in terms of bandwidth handling and will move to a public space like building corridor or a pole mast.
In the other case the Wi-Fi is between the Gateway router and STB. The gateway becomes the Carrier-Wi-Fi AP so that it can used by the public. It ultimately boils down to the bandwidth (number of channels) that can be handled simultaneously by the access Wi-Fi router.
How many (%) phones support officially the HotSpot2.0/EAP-SIM?
Very few currently. Samsung S4 supports HotSpot 2.0. Some android phones are enabled for Hotspot2.0. iPhone is expected to support Hotspot 2.0 in next release.
What do you know about the EAP-SIM authentication? Is it currently support by all kind of smart phones?
EAP for GSM Subscriber Identity Module (EAP-SIM) is used for authentication and session key distribution using the SIM from the GSM. EAP-SIM uses a SIM authentication algorithm between the client and an Authentication, Authorization and Accounting (AAA) server providing mutual authentication between the client and the network. EAP-SIM authentication is currently supported by iphone, blackberry, etc
Will Hotspot 2.0 be enough to provide the appropriate user experience? In particular, how do the user’s preferences interwork with the carrier preferences for Wi-Fi selection? A user may prefer to use Starbucks Wi-Fi even though there is operator Wi-Fi available in a location.
Hotpot2.0 is capable of selecting desired network automatically taking into consideration both user preference and operator policy
What would be the main revenues stream for Wi-Fi monetization in the midterm future?
Data access by mobile users will be the major source in the mid-term. The Mobile Networks will gain from such services as they can provide more bandwidth at less cost.
Who pays whom when AT&T puts an AP in a McDonald’s (and how much)?
If McDonald’s wants to provide free Wi-Fi to McDonald’s clients, then McDonald’s pays. If AT&T wants to provide hotspot for its clients, then McDonald’s may optionally charge for hosting the APs. McDonald’s might beam the Menu to the clients using AT&T provided AP free of cost.