WiFi Roaming: Paving the Way for Carrier WiFi

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At the end of this blog, we answer the following frequently asked questions in addition to other topics:

Q1. What is WiFi?

Q2. What is WiFi 6?

Smart Devices have revolutionized the way we live. WiFi has enabled internet access and “anytime anywhere” connectivity at a touch of a button. This interrelated demand of mobility and connectivity certainly defines the expectations of today’s consumers, who prefer to use WiFi, as opposed to their 3G or 4G network, to consume and share data. However, we cannot address the opportunities afforded by WiFi without mentioning WiFi roaming, which allows smart devices to seamlessly hop between hotspots without any interaction or input from the user.

Considered a revolution in mobile data, WiFi roaming enables users to seamlessly connect to WiFi hotspots without having to constantly log in. And the plan for achieving that is to automate WiFi connectivity by using SIM card credentials for authentication. This represents the biggest move towards universal connectivity data ever since the introduction of WAP, GPRS and subsequent mobile data standards.

How Is WiFi Roaming Enabling You to Roam Anywhere While Staying Connected?

WiFi roaming is paving ahead the way for carrier WiFi. To make global WiFi roaming possible, core infrastructure should operate like Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) infrastructure and vice versa. Carriers can transform their end-user experience by avoiding bill shock and make mobile connectivity infinitely easier like never before in roaming scenarios. The technology is already here; but in order for WiFi roaming to meet its true potential, a series of things need to fall into place.

Carrier WiFi helps subscribers connect to various hotspots with the device of their choice wherever they go.  WiFi roaming can become interoperable and function efficiently only when there is standardization across all constituents involved – mobile device, access point and service provider. This can be simplified by adapting to the Passpoint Compliant Hotspot 2.0 regulations which standardise hotspots and devices to work together automatically. Passpoint enabled WiFi service holds the potential to stimulate customer loyalty and drive measurable business value for both service providers and retailers.

Furthermore, to set new standards and transform the overall WiFi roaming experience, Operators should overcome the challenges of lack of standard roaming agreements and device standards, inconsistent user experience and irregular cost of roaming, seamless authentication, 3G/4G/LTE- WiFi Interworking and monetization models and techniques.

Overcoming these barriers requires a WiFi Service Management platform capable of handling authentication for roaming and partnership scenarios, interoperable with global roaming providers, support multiple roaming standards. Supporting this will enable operators to increase their footprint and differentiate their services by offering WiFi connections to major public locations (i.e., airports, libraries and cafes) as part of their value offerings across places globally.

Moreover, support for WiFi roaming standards WiSPr, Hotspot 2.0 compliance will make the WiFi connection process simpler through seamless handover across hotspots from 3G/4G, allowing them to roam globally with inbound and outbound roaming support.

How Will WiFi Roaming Help Operators Win a Competitive Edge?

a. Simplified Manageability & Interconnectivity

It reduces the complexity of managing mobile data roaming and services across multiple business relationships (operators, WISPs, etc.) and roaming partners to provide a secured relationship management

b. Seamless Connectivity

Inter-operator roaming agreements will set up partnerships between internet service providers, mobile carriers and hotspot providers which will ensure that the service they provide meets customer expectations. This will also allow smart devices to seamlessly connect to WiFi networks using SIM credentials for authentication and enables operators to uniquely and securely identify whether users are on a mobile or WiFi in roaming

c. Optimum Revenue Realization

Carriers can take the best of opportunity and maximize revenue potential through roaming partnerships and settlement with global service providers, infrastructure sharing with other operators, reconciliation with other WiFi providers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is WiFi?

Put simply, Wifi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a Wifi hotspot that people in its vicinity may avail to get access to internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a Wifi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, Wifi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN, that allows for devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since Wifi signals need to carry significantly greater amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

Q2. What is WiFi 6?

WiFi stands for Wireless Fidelity and is also a common name for Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). WiFi 6 is the newest and fastest version of the WiFi 802.11 wireless local area network specification standard. IEEE 802.11ax or commonly marketed as WiFi 6 by the industry body WiFi-Alliance is a major advancement over its previous generation that offers multiple devices to run concurrently on one network without compromising on the data speeds and response times.

The 802.11ax standard was approved by the IEEE on 9th February 2021 is designed to operate between 1 and 7.125 GHz, including the widely used 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. To better understand, WiFi or Wireless Fidelity devices usually translate radio waves into binary code using a technique called QAM ie Quadrature Amplitude Modulation. The older generations of WiFi are capable of 256 QAM ie it could send 8 bits of binary data in a single transmission whereas WiFi 6 is capable of 1024 QAM ie 10 bits of binary data in a single transmission.

This significant increase helps WiFi 6 devices to provide 30% faster speeds than its predecessors. The previous WiFi standards like 802.11/a/g/n/ac used OFDM which meant all of the subcarriers or tones were allocated to a single device at any instance of time. WiFi 5 introduced Multi-user MIMO enabling multiple users on the wireless medium at the same time thereby adding multiple users across different streams with each device using all of the subcarriers.

With WiFi 6, OFDMA can now portion up the individual sub-carriers or tones and these can be allocated to a number of devices. Apart from greater bandwidths, higher data speeds snd lower latencies, WiFi 6 also offers better spectrum utilisation using orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA), Multi-user MIMO support, better power consumption and enhanced security protocols.

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