A few years ago mobile operators didn’t want to know about Wi-Fi, but as the ever increasing demand for data puts more pressure on their networks it is being keenly sought by carriers and integrated into their core networks.
It is partly about offloading traffic onto Wi-Fi to augment network capacity, but with the advent of Hotspot 2.0, networks will also be able to offer subscribers the ability to seamlessly roam from cellular to Wi-Fi and still keep track of them.
At MWC 2013, the Tier One equipment providers such as Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent all showcased ways to integrate Wi-Fi into the core network and some are providing their own Wi-Fi cells for both indoor and outdoor environments.
The smaller independent Wi-Fi providers have not been idle either. Ruckus Wireless offered up two new products at MWC – the ZoneFlex 7055 Wi-Fi wall switch, which combines wired and wireless connectivity within a small form factor, while offering simultaneous operation of both 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, along with wireless meshing – and the Ruckus SmartCell Architecture. This centres on the SmartCell Gateway 200 – a platform that integrates 3GPP gateway functions to allow carriers to easily weave Wi-Fi into the fabric of their existing networks. It also launched the ZoneFlex 7782 series of four new outdoor access points (APs) and the ZoneFlex 7321-U dual band AP, which can be used to leverage macro cellular technology for backhaul in locations where fixed line backhaul is unavailable or cost prohibitive.
Xirrus’ main announcement at MWC was its partnership with AirWatch to provide integrated mobile device management. Xirrus wireless solutions will be integrated with AirWatch’s Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution to simplify the management of mobile devices on wireless networks.
The partnership aims to provide the first usable, mobile device-managed, high performance wireless network that addresses the challenges of enterprises, schools and IT administrators dealing with the onslaught of new devices on their networks. Xirrus’s most recent launch was its XR-520 fixed two-radio wireless array for use in smaller spaces such as hotel rooms, small, low density offices and classrooms.
Aruba Networks used MWC to introduce its HybridControl Architecture for Wi-Fi, which provides managed services and support for more than 32,000 hotspots to provide scale for cellular offload at a much reduced cost. Aruba said that with HybridControl, service providers can support more than 32,000 Wi-Fi hotspots with a single Aruba 7200 Mobility Controller at up to 40 times lower capital cost, 14 times lower power consumption and one-third the rack space of competitive offerings. Each hotspot can be deployed using multiple Aruba Instant access points, giving a single controller the ability to aggregate in excess of 100,000 access points.
SpiderCloud Wireless announced the addition of LTE to its E-RAN system. The company said that this makes it the first to offer a true multi-mode access system with 3G, LTE 4G and dual-band Wi-Fi for reliable mobile services indoors for enterprise customers of any size.
SpiderCloud Wireless’s solution enables mobile operators to build very dense small cell networks to address their own network coverage and capacity needs and offer enterprise customers reliable mobile, application and cloud services as they move from a wireless to a mobile connected enterprise.
The E-RAN system consists of a Services Node (SCSN) that can control over 100 self-organizing and multi-access 3G, Wi-Fi and LTE/4G small cells that can be installed in just days using an enterprise-Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN).
One E-RAN delivers unprecedented capacity and coverage to over 10,000 connected smartphones and tablets, with just one connection to the mobile operator’s core network, according to the company.