Jan, 8, 2015 — Unlicensed wireless systems in the near future will be much more than hotspot-only Wi-Fi as Wi-Fi and LTE converge. Wi-Fi nodes become an integral part of the tapestry of licensed networks. And that convergence may aid the deployment of municipal Wi-Fi networks, according to Ted Abrams, chief technology officer, Wi-Fi Wireless.
“The view many have of Wi-Fi is that it should be a stand-alone best-effort, incidental and opportunistic hotspot solution,” he said. “Our design approach is much more comprehensive. The Wi-Fi network will be integrated hand in glove with the cellular network.”
Wi-Fi Wireless is designing public Wi-Fi networks for several municipalities, which may come online in the next year or two. Wi-Fi integration with the cellular network increases coverage and capacity of licensed networks because of Wi-Fi’s ability to provide offload services. The seamless integration of Wi-Fi and LTE is important to making muni Wi-Fi networks sustainable, according to Abrams.
“With VoLTE, the demand for carrier offload becomes a voice service, not just data. That demand, combined with all the other benefits of Wi-Fi, including fast Web access, voice and data services like Skype, location-based services and sponsorships can propel a municipality into a profitable cyber future when combined with the right business model,” he said. “Those factors define a very positive future for public spectrum.”
Technically, for Wi-Fi to integrate with LTE, several things will need to happen, such as the deployment of 802.11ac Wave 2 equipment. Additionally, handsets will need to be VoLTE-capable, and every carrier will need to have LTE available to its subscribers.
“When a large percentage of the North American handsets are VoLTE capable that’s when the wave of change will become visible to even the casual observer,” Abrams said.
With the new technology in place, voice over LTE (VoLTE) will move seamlessly from the cellular network over to a carrier-grade Wi-Fi system, which will handle the call just like another sector on a macrosite.
“The seamless crossover between VoLTE and VoIP [voice over Internet protocol] may be desirable to maximize the users’ experience if they are talking while surfing the Internet and they hit the limit of LTE coverage or capacity,” Abrams said.
Wi-Fi and cellular remain separate networks today because the old hotspot design approach does not take into account the way Wi-Fi can work with LTE. Abrams asserts that a convergence between the two will be a boon for wireless carriers, as well as municipalities.
J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of the AGL Link and AGL Small Cell Link newsletters.