The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the industry association focused on driving the next generation Wi-Fi experience, announced new measures today (25 September 2014) to accelerate the deployment of community Wi-Fi networks where subscribers allow part of the capacity of their residential gateway to be open to casual use.
The WBA has published a whitepaper that details community Wi-Fi service levels, network architectures, and implementation details, as well as sharing case studies from existing providers.
This is the result of nine months of collaboration with over 20 major players in the Wi-Fi ecosystem and the next step will be to send the whitepaper to a number of industry forums for review. They include 3GPP, Broadband Forum, CableLabs, GSMA, IEEE, NGMN, Small Cell Forum and Wi-Fi Alliance.
The WBA brought together over 20 of the world’s largest operators and vendors to participate in this project. They include: Accuris Networks, AT&T, BIGLOBE, BSG Wireless, BT, Cable, CableLabs, China Mobile, Cisco, Comcast, Cox Communications, Ericsson, Fon, Gemalto, Huawei, Meteor Network, NSN, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Portugal Telecom, Ruckus Wireless, Shaw Communications and TWC.
This whitepaper addresses these key challenges and technology gaps as well as clarifying the business benefits of the service. It details the feature sets required for the implementation of a consistent and predictable Community Wi-Fi service, with particular focus on user experience, security, Passpoint support, resource management, 3GPP aspects and network management.
Community Wi-Fi networks are being actively deployed across Europe, North America and East Asia by a variety of operators including FON, Orange, Ziggo, BT, Belgacom, XFinity, ZON, Telnet and MEO Wi-Fi. Case studies featured in this whitepaper include:
XFinity WiFi (Comcast) – Customers of Comcast’s Community Wi-Fi network XFinity get Internet access outside the home using its one million hotspots already deployed across the nation with plans to increase this to 8 million by the end of the year.
BT’s community Wi-Fi – This network boasts 5.5million hotspots and is a major contributor to the success of BT’s Consumer broadband business in the UK.
MEO Wi-Fi (Portugal Telecom) - This service gives its customers access to more than 300,000 community Wi-Fi hotspots in Portugal, enabled only for Fiber MEO customers to guarantee a superior quality of service.
Belgacom and Fon – Belgacom partnered with Fon to create Belgium’s largest Wi-Fi network (over 600,000 hotspots) giving its customers ubiquitous access throughout the country and worldwide.
With a vast array of implementation choices, building out a community Wi-Fi network has many challenges, emphasised by the need to balance public and private networks, service levels and technologies.
In addition, there are device considerations that will not initially support public Wi-Fi standards of QoS or interoperability and they are lower powered than commercial hotspots, so the quality of experience will be variable. Given Wi-Fi uses unlicensed spectrum, interference is also a significant factor, especially from household appliances and other nearby Wi-Fi systems.
“The appetite for community Wi-Fi has grown exponentially in recent years, mainly due to consumers wanting to always be connected both inside and outside the home.
“Operators are feeling the pressure to address this demand and deliver the desired services but they first need to lock down on certain considerations around implementation, QoS and even monetisation.
“The WBA has united the ecosystem once again to investigate these further and provide the industry with the tools necessary to deliver Community Wi-Fi networks,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA.
Going forward, the WBA will take an active role in coordinating community Wi-Fi activities and will become the reference point for related initiatives. These may include: hosting community Wi-Fi interoperability trials, generating network management and device behaviour specifications, and launching a community Wi-Fi compliancy program for devices and access points.
The paper will also be sent to other industry bodies for their feedback on how to progress Community Wi-Fi development and the potential work that still needs to be carried out. To view the current whitepaper, visit - http://www.wballiance.com/resource-center/white-papers/
The findings of this whitepaper will also be showcased next month at the WBA’s Wi-Fi Global Congress at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco from 6-10 October where there will be a number of presentations from WBA members and partners including AT&T, BT, City of San Francisco, City of San Jose, Ericsson, Cisco, Google, Broadcom, Comcast and Microsoft. For more details on the event, please visit: http://www.wifiglobalcongress.com