Elitecore was present at the 2012 edition of Mobile World Congress, Barcelona’s annual jamboree for the who’s who of telecom industry. With over 65000 attendees and nearly 1500 companies, we saw several interesting developments from mobile industry: superphones like Galaxy Beam, enterprise apps, Mobile money, Cloud-based technologies etc.
Another interesting note was Wi-Fi offload generating a lot of buzz. According to an earlier ITU survey, more than 20% respondents considered it the most significant topic at MWC, right behind LTE technologies (32%). Around 25% Asia-Pacific operators viewed it as a hot topic.
This wasn’t always the case in the past though. Back when operators were reluctant to adopt Wi-Fi because of its free, unlicensed nature, preferring to focus on expensive, licensed spectrums. Today, however, they see it as a succor to alleviating network congestion due to the mind-boggling variety of data-hungry devices; Wi-Fi is also being seen as a cheaper alternative to investing in new spectrum.
So, what has brought this sea change in attitude; it’s basically sheer Mathematics!
Take a load of this. Even as mobile broadband data is growing at 150% p.a., of which video alone would comprise 67% by 2015, spectrum growth is only 6-7% at best places. Clearly, there is a huge gap between consumer appetite for data and what operators can fulfill – adding insult to injury is the fact that just 13% users consume 78% of all data.
Wi-Fi offers several natural advantages as a viable mobile data offload technology. Research shows that 80% of the time, people connect to mobile Internet from their homes, offices or other indoor locations which means given a chance, they will happily switch over to Wi-Fi as a substitute for or complement to Mobile networks. Wi-Fi also helps them realize benefits like higher speed, good coverage and a better user experience.
Operators, on the other hand, can make money by charging mobile carriers or Wi-Fi hotspot providers, selling them access or value-added services. They can also leverage Wi-Fi to offload growing data traffic to avoid big investment in new cellular equipment.
Some of the Wi-Fi & Offload business cases that can be available are as below:
- Internet Access to existing 3G/2.5G/CDMA Users
- Wi-Fi Access to Walk-In Subscribers (Open to Public) using Vouchers/Online Payment.
- Wireless Internet Access for Broadband/DSL/Dial up Subscribers
- Offering Wifi access to Hotels and hospitality segment
- Enterprise Private WLAN with Centralized Wi-Fi Core
- Location based advertisements on Captive portal at operator owned Wifi hotspots
- Retail Promotions& partnerships with OTT providers for Content promotion and High QoE
- Partnerships with Hotspot Owner
Bottlenecks: Having spelled out key advantages of Wi-Fi, there are several challenges operators currently face in embracing Wi-Fi for mobile data offload. First, guaranteeing when a UE moves to operator Wi-Fi hotspot, it should effortlessly connect with the network. Second, there has to be a capability to seamlessly integrate operator’s packet core with the Wi-Fi infrastructure which means bringing Billing, Charging and Policy activities in sync with Wi-Fi offload mechanism. The Wi-Fi offload mechanism should also allow for roaming and partner settlement.
Elitecore Mobile Data Offload solution offers operators a cost-effective platform to address their challenges of authentication, billing and integration with mobile packet core. It brings comprehensive Wi-Fi service management with EliteAAA, Captive Portal, Crestel Charging, Crestel Partner management and Elite Charging Gateway.
Having completed over 15+ POCs with leading Tier 1 operators worldwide and 2400+ deployments, Elitecore helps seize the huge opportunity in Wi-Fi through features like seamless integration with HLR, Access controllers, IN/SDP, different kinds of off-the-shelf use cases (EAP-SIM, walk-in, Interconnect), roaming and partner settlement and more.