Alvarion has successfully tested an end-to-end Wi-Fi mobile data offloading solution with Aptilo Networks. The system combines Alvarion’s carrier-grade WBSn family of Wi-Fi base stations with Aptilo’s service management platform and access controller. In addition to lab testing, the companies’ joint solution is currently in trials in Central America, where a local service provider is using mobile data offloading to alleviate traffic from its cellular network in a major shopping mall.
With carriers turning to Wi-Fi to serve the growing use of high bandwidth applications, Alvarion and Aptilo Networks are addressing the needs of operators deploying large-scale Wi-Fi networks for hot spots, hot zones and mobile data offloading.
“The solution allows operators to benefit from increased network capacity and coverage in high-traffic areas where data congestion is overloading existing cellular networks,” Lior Mishan, Alvarion director of marketing, told DAS Bulletin. “The ability to implement Wi-Fi offloading quickly is critical for mobile operators to remain competitive.”
Global demand among mobile operators for Wi-Fi as a complement to their 3G/4G mobile networks has had a major impact on the Aptilo, which markets a SIM card-based authentication product. Revenue at the Swedish company grew at a 40-percent clip in 2012, with staff up 40 percent.
Most carriers are bundling Wi-Fi and cellular service offerings, according to Mishan, but one operator customer of Alvarion’s is running a separate, free Wi-Fi network and is making its money on location-based advertising.
“The majority of carriers today are looking to [offload data] through hotspots and hot zones,” he said. “We are seeing a growing number of operators who are interested in using Wi-Fi for revenue generation.”
Using an end-to-end solution speeds up Wi-Fi offloading deployments, Mishan said. Through mobile core integration, users can experience an uninterrupted, seamless handoff from 3G/LTE to Wi-Fi for customers.
“We will see more seamless integration of Wi-Fi with cellular operators in the future,” Mishan said. “We will see carriers using multiple access technologies, 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi.”
Small cells can either be cellular or Wi-Fi or eventually both, but that integration will not occur overnight, Mishan said.
“We see integration of Wi-Fi and cellular in the handsets, and we will eventually see them integrated in the access technology,” he said. “But there are RF issues that will need to be solved.”
In the near-term, different access technologies will be collocated in several separate boxes, perhaps backhauled together, with seamless authentication using protocols such as PassPoint. All of the integration, according to Mishan, will eventually lead to heterogeneous networks where multiple access technologies sit side-by-side inside the network box.
“In the future, you may see the term ‘hetnet’ applyied to a combining of access code in the same mechanical solution,” he said. “Hetnet is the direction that we are slowly evolving to.”