Wi-Fi in a ‘Carrier’ class of its own : Page 2 of 4

May 06, 2015 // By Steve Hratko, Ruckus Wireless
More and more mobile operators are integrating Wi-Fi into their RAN infrastructure to supplement data network coverage, support LTE rollouts, and even introduce new Wi-Fi calling services. Steve Hratko, Director of Service Provider Marketing at Ruckus Wireless, explains how operators can make the most of integrating Wi-Fi into their network core.
There is no doubt that Wi-Fi has undergone a major transformation. What was once regarded as a risky option by carriers has now become a cornerstone network technology. In fact, last year, over 80% of smartphone traffic was carried over Wi-Fi (Smartphone, Tablet Usage trends, 2014, Ovum).

So how did Wi-Fi become so important to the operators? To fully understand this we should first examine exactly what a carrier class Wi-Fi network is comprised of and what it can deliver for the operators.

Improved data network coverage

Making sure that users can pick up a strong signal from anywhere in the coverage area – that’s the epitome of what it means to be carrier class. Carrier class Wi-Fi offers cutting-edge technology like adaptive antennas embedded in access points to guarantee the strongest possible signal whilst minimising radio frequency (RF) interference.

Staying connected

Ensuring that subscribers remain connected is an integral part of what carrier class Wi-Fi can help deliver. This has traditionally required user intervention, but Hotspot 2.0 Release 2 empowers operators to automate the manual process of getting people connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot. This enables users to seamlessly ‘roam’ on and between Wi-Fi hotspots. Hotspot 2.0 achieves this through a revolutionary overhaul of the Wi-Fi connection procedure, automating the manual configuration and decision-making process as well as ensuring a secure, reliable connection.

Unlimited scalability

Finally, carrier class Wi-Fi networks must be able to scale to hundreds of thousands of access points, if required, mirroring the scale of existing cellular networks. This requires a wireless LAN (WLAN) management platform that has the requisite scalability (e.g., capable of to managing up to 10,000 access points). Ideally, these platforms should be virtualised, making it possible to support almost unlimited scaling.

It’s clear these carrier class Wi-Fi features like massive scalability and virtualization (e.g., Network Functions Virtualization) are helping to drive adoption with operators.

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