Concerns over the rapid growth of mobile broadband traffic are encouraging operators to look beyond the negative revenue implications of Wi-Fi, according to analyst Ovum.
However, Ovum warns that although Wi-Fi offload is now being included in the majority of infrastructure strategy plans, today's carrier-grade solutions do not fully meet operators' needs.
Findings from Ovum’s new operator survey on Wi-Fi offloading, Mobile Operator Survey About Wi-Fi Offload, indicate that many operators are still looking for features not currently available on a large scale. Over half expect session continuity when moving between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, while over 90% are also looking for a device-based policy solution that would select the best network (3G/4G/Wi-Fi) based on cost, performance, and other policy-driven features.
Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst in Ovum’s Network Infrastructure Telecoms team, said: ‘Just a few years ago, if one was to ask mobile operators about Wi-Fi, their responses would most likely have been negative, but this has long changed with rising concerns around how to manage the growth of mobile broadband. Now the issue is how best to build up sufficient network resources to manage Wi-Fi offload.’
The majority of operators expect to work with other hotspot providers to build out their network footprint, according to the survey. Operators are willing to work with what they call ‘untrusted’ or ‘non-controlled’ Wi-Fi networks – for example, free public networks that aren't controlled by an operator, such as those found at hotels or libraries. Less than half of the operators surveyed said their companies were taking any measure to evaluate application performance before allowing those applications to access their networks.
Although most operators thought Automatic Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) and Hotspot 2.0 (which will allow seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks) were important, only a small minority said they would deploy those solutions prior to their full standardisation, even if the vendor said they were fully compliant with the standard.
‘What compliance actually means appears to be a big issue here. For example, most respondents answered “Don’t know” when it came to their willingness to deploy pre-standardised compliant solutions. Greater information on what compliance actually means could reduce the number of “don't know” responses,’ commented Schoolar.