Many data-hungry mobile subscribers are spending more time connected to Wi-Fi than cellular, and wireless carriers know it. Providers who once viewed Wi-Fi hotspots as competition are now looking at Wi-Fi as a complementary technology.
“They are looking at carrier-managed Wi-Fi,” said Natasha Tamaskar, vice president of global strategic solutions at Genband. “As they’ve started embracing Wi-Fi what we are seeing is that the service providers that were initially saying ‘OK I will support macro cellular networks and augment those networks with small cells’ are also now saying ‘I want to augment these with Wi-Fi as well.’
“Within a time span of 0 – 3 years we will see most mobile operators in the world adopt … mobile/Wi-Fi integration so that Wi-fi becomes an integrated part of their service strategy, including of course seamless handoff between the two technologies,” said Wi-Fi analyst Claus Hetting of Hetting Consultants.
Security is a key concern with carrier-managed Wi-Fi, but Genband’s Tamaskar says the solutions are very similar to those in place for small cells. Small cells connect to the cellular network through a gateway, and security is one of the functions of that gateway. Genband’s small cell gateway is part of a number of small cell deployments already, and the company was able to extend the functionality of that gateway to trusted and untrusted Wi-Fi access points.
“It is a similar function that is needed for Wi-Fi hotspots to be able to connect back into the mobile core, so what we ended up doing is broadening the functionality that we have to be able to support both un-secure as well as secure Wi-Fi access toward the mobile core,” said Tamaskar.
Genband’s newest wireless access gateway supports Hotspot 2.0 and adds standards-based ePDG (Enhanced Packet Data Gateway) functionality for untrusted public Wi-Fi access and SaMOG (S2a Mobility over GTP Gateway) functionality for trusted carrier Wi-Fi access. The new gateway is part of a suite of enterprise tools called Simply Mobile, unveiled by Genband ahead of CTIA Super Mobility Week.
Genband said its Simply Mobile framework has five key pillars. In addition to the new gateway, Simply Mobile includes a network-based mobile session grid to enable connectivity between different network operators, intelligent mobile video messaging services, a cloud-based mobile application platform to enable embedded real time communications, and a suite of cloud-based over-the-top solutions that service providers can white label, leveraging the tools that Genband acquired when it bought fring. Genband believes that service providers want turnkey apps but also the ability to create their own offerings.
“We also provide them a development platform that enables them to create … embedded real-time communications in the mobile application framework or the web application framework,” said Sanjay Bhatia, senior director of strategic marketing at Genband. Bhatia noted that operators now want the flexibility to offer new services over both cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
For more of Genband’s perspective on cellular and Wi-Fi, watch the video interview with Natasha Tamaskar.