It’s a given these days that no operator’s mobile broadband strategy is complete without carrier Wi-Fi technologies. The potential for new revenue generation is compelling, and in many markets competitive positioning demands it.
For example, Juniper Research suggests that, by 2017, mobile data traffic generated by smartphones, feature phones and tablets will top 90,000 petabytes and the majority of the data traffic (60%) will be via the Wi-Fi network. In some regions, such as Europe, the numbers are even higher. In 2013 the European Commission reported that 71% of all EU wireless traffic in 2012 delivered to smartphones and tablets was via Wi-Fi – and projects that this will rise to 78% by 2016.
This broad adoption means that the market for carrier Wi-Fi applications is evolving rapidly. So the question today may be more about what other network changes must occur to ensure a seamless end user experience. Many operators are integrating their carrier Wi-Fi applications onto a common carrier Wi-Fi core – and that means the role of the Wi-Fi WLAN Gateway has never been as critical. (Read more about the role of the WLAN Gateway)
What role can the Wi-Fi WLAN Gateway play in helping to deliver a simple, secure and seamless user experience across wireline and wireless networks? There are a few key capabilities that operators should consider must-haves:
- High bandwidth and effective aggregation, while concurrently scaling performance and services
- Traffic conditioning for traffic separation and management
- Networking flexibility to anchor the multi-vendor carrier Wi-Fi infrastructures while also providing the gateway to the IP services networks
- High density enhanced subscriber management delivering advanced subscriber access management; authentication flexibility; service personalization and dynamic carrier Wi-Fi mobility across the carrier Wi-Fi market applications and also across the carrier Wi-Fi and cellular networks
- The ability to host integrated gateway capabilities so removing the requirement to deploy a panoply of other elements, thus helping drive operational simplicity and reducing CAPEX & OPEX
- High availability from both a network resiliency and also a platform redundancy prospective with high availability within a platform and between platforms that could be collocated or geographically dispersed
As deployment of the carrier Wi-Fi market grows and operators move to a common carrier Wi-Fi core, this drives a new focus and requirements around the carrier Wi-Fi WLAN Gateway as a key element that anchors the multi-vendor access infrastructures, while also providing the gateway to the IP based wireless and wireline service networks.
In my opinion flexible, scalable, high performance carrier grade WLAN Gateways that efficiently integrate into an operator’s IP network and business strategy, are key to the deployment of carrier Wi-Fi.
-  Juniper Research: Mobile Data Offload & Onload; Wi-Fi, Small Cell & Carrier Grade Strategies 2013-2017; Apr 2013
-  European Commission: Study on Impact of traffic off-loading and related technological trends on the demand for wireless broadband spectrum; 2013
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