Why Wi-Fi Offload
For years, mobile subscribers have been using mobile broadband at an affordable price in many markets, even for a flat monthly fee regardless of usage. That worked well until the beginning of the “iPhone era.”
Additionally, more and more devices such as laptops and tablets come with mobile data broadband capabilities built-in, as they are designed to download content anywhere, any time.
While some mobile operators urgently need a cost-effective way of satisfying customers’ ever-increasing hunger for more bandwidth, this is not the only driver for Wi-Fi offload. As devices with built-in Wi-Fi perform better in Wi-Fi networks (with speeds up to 1,3 Gbit/s) than in 3G/4G – especially indoors – mobile operators need to be able to deliver an excellent Wi-Fi-based end-user experience. The higher frequencies in 5G make the symbiotic relationship with Wi-Fi even more crucial as a complement for indoor coverage and additional capacity.
Furthermore, with the growing number of new types of devices being designed specifically as “Wi-Fi-only,” the operator can decrease churn and make subscribers more “sticky” by offering Wi-Fi.
Indoor Coverage an Increasing Challenge in Cellular Networks
The indoor coverage challenge, using macro cells, already exists in the case of 4G. For example, 20% of buildings in the US are struggling with proper indoor coverage. The problem is exacerbated in the case of 5G because of the higher frequency bands involved. Initially, 3.1-4.9 GHz is a commonly used frequency range, but 5G will also employ the millimeter band above 30 GHz, and at such frequencies, line of sight is required for signal reception. Already at the 5G frequency of 10 GHz, the only indoor coverage option is to place your receiving device as close to an untreated pane of glass windowpane as possible. The energy-conserving glass used in many new buildings or other treated glass panes will effectively attenuate the signal making indoor coverage more or less impossible.
Wi-Fi is more relevant than ever in the 5G era. Learn more about this in our white paper Wi-Fi in the 5G era – Strategy guide for operators.
Reduce Cost with Selective Wi-Fi Offload
Mobile network traffic data may indicate overcapacity. But that is often only true as a high-level average. There will always be some cell sites suffering from congestion and some only serving a handful of subscribers. Selective Wi-Fi offload is the answer; Build Wi-Fi capacity where needed most to make users happy (Churn Zone) and always for indoor coverage.
If regulations allow it, mobile operators may even take the bold step to replace cellular with Wi-Fi at some locations (CAPEX overload Zone).
Here is our suggested list of reasonably simple network changes that would create a Wi-Fi offload service and hence a quick new source of revenue for operators:
- Create an additional SSID (network name) supporting the 802.1x protocol on your existing Wi-Fi footprints, including your managed B2B Guest Wi-Fi.
- Extend your indoor footprint further by using third-party Wi-Fi networks such as OpenRoaming. We believe that OpenRoaming may become the silver bullet for neutral host Wi-Fi Offload.
- Enable SIM-based Wi-Fi services authentication (using the EAP-SIM/AKA protocol).
- Introduce selective offloading of mobile traffic to Wi-Fi at various locations.
By introducing the correct configurations and correctly provisioning devices, such a scheme would create an additional layer of mobile network capacity using Wi-Fi. But this would also require that mobile and fixed parts of the operator organization collaborate to get the most out of the Wi-Fi footprint. Read our blog post break organizational silos to learn more.
OpenRoaming White Paper
Download our white paper now.
People from all over the world will flock to Brazil to celebrate the World Cup and 2016 Olympics. The ability to offload mobile data to Wi-Fi will ease network congestion significantly and increase data speeds, for an exceptional user experience.Rafael Marques
Marketing Director at TIM Intelig