Nokia Siemens Networks and Ericsson are offering solutions to help wireless carriers better integrate WiFi into their broadband services to give mobile device users a better overall better experience.
The two vendors at the CTIA show in Las Vegas this week introduced separate traffic steering offerings designed to enable people using their smartphones and tablets to be able to move from broadband to WiFi networks without having to then deal with slower connection speeds or service interruptions.
The goal is to create better heterogeneous wireless networks that give users a consistent experience as they seamlessly shift from 3G and 4G networks to WiFi. Mobile devices often will shift from broadband to WiFi when an authorized hotspot is available, which helps lessen the amount of traffic on already congested broadband networks and lowers the costs for mobile device users.
The offerings from Nokia Siemens and Ericsson not only help move users to a WiFi network, but also help find the best network for their devices.
“Offloading traffic to Wi-Fi is only the first step to help mobile operators handle traffic congestion,” Randy Cox, head of small cells product management at Nokia Siemens, said in a statement. “With the new traffic steering capabilities, we go beyond offloading to steer traffic flexibly onto the most appropriate radio network, according to the operator’s strategy and actual network conditions. By using WiFi networks in indoor locations, operators can deliver superior customer experience and cost effectively boost network performance for the subscriber by up to seven-fold.”
The moves come at a time when users are getting more access to operator WiFi networks and increasingly are demanding better service. According to a Nokia Siemens report earlier this month, access to operator WiFi is up 35 percent over 2012, while 47 percent of respondents to the study say wireless operators should offer excellent network quality. In addition, 29 percent said they would be willing to pay more for better service.
Nokia Siemens unveiled its Smart WiFi initiative in February at the Mobile World Congress show and is now adding new components to it. The WiFi Service Manager and WiFi Activation Manager tools give operators real-time information about their own WiFi access points or those from partners, and then can dynamically steer traffic between the WiFi and broadband networks in accordance with the network load.
In addition, Nokia Siemens is growing its femtocell portfolio with the FAPr-hsp 5120 Femtocell Access Point (FAP) for improved indoor 3G broadband coverage. The access point connects to a Nokia Siemens Femtocell Gateway though the user’s broadband link, such as a cable connection or DSL.
Nokia Siemens, Ericsson Look to Ease WiFi Offloading of Mobile Traffic
For its part, Ericsson unveiled a range of WiFi network access, control and management solutions that are compliant with 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) standards. The real-time traffic steering technology automatically selects the best connection for the mobile device by assessing information on both the broadband and WiFi networks and then dynamically and seamlessly shifts the connection to the best option.
Ericsson began moving in this direction in February 2012 when it bought BelAir Networks, which gave the company carrier-grade WiFi capabilities.
In addition, Ericsson’s technology supports access selection, a feature of self-optimizing networks (SONs) that enables load balancing between WiFi and 3GPP networks.
Ericsson also is dealing with the thorny issue of indoor connectivity by developing an 802.11ac access point to enable mobile operators to deliver supplemental or stand-alone indoor WiFi coverage. In addition, the company introduced two new cloud-controller options that make it easier for carriers to add WiFi to their portfolio of mobile services.
The company is bringing integrated management of WiFi and 3GPP networks to a common platform, a move that officials said will simplify operations and reduce network costs.
“Heterogeneous network strategies among leading mobile operators are focused on delivering a great mobile broadband experience to their customers, wherever they are,” Thomas Noren, vice president and head of product area radio at Ericsson, said in a statement. “By coordinating licensed small cells with the macro cell … and intelligently integrating WiFi and 3GPP throughout the network, we’re providing operators with the most effective way to deliver consistently high-performance consumer connections.”
The traffic steering solutions from both Nokia Siemens and Ericsson complement such standards as Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF), which includes policies around user profiles, location and timing.