The benefits of integrating Wi-Fi with 3G

Staff writer
21 Feb 2012

In the face of soaring demand for mobile broadband, at reduced profitability levels, mobile network operators are exploring different options to augment their mobile networks to meet this challenge. The proliferation of dual-mode Wi-Fi enabled devices and the use of unlicensed spectrum seem to offer an attractive option for immediate data offload.

Dirk Wolter, Cisco’s director of mobility architecture for APAC, China and Japan, explains how Wi-Fi is becoming an integral part of cellcos’ network and how it will be able to support subscribers’ insatiable bandwidth appetite in a profitable way.

Mobile Internet Supplement: What are the practical benefits of Wi-Fi offload? How much of a difference can it really make for operators?

Dirk Wolter: Faced with the rampant growth in mobile broadband demand for many operators Wi-Fi offload is the only effective choice to provide additional bandwidth cost effectively in the short term. The proliferation of Wi-Fi enabled smartphones and tablets is already leading to large scale off-load to home and third-party hotspots. For example, it is estimated that more than 30% of wireless broadband data in the US is already carried over Wi-Fi, according to Millennial Media. A recent Korean study entitled “Mobile Data Offloading: How Much Can Wi-Fi Deliver?” found 65% of smartphone traffic was offloaded to Wi-Fi. The potential to move significant traffic off mobile radio access layers to Wi-Fi is has been recognized by many mobile network operators.

Integrating service provider Wi-Fi can not only relieve already congested 3G networks by adding capacity where and when needed at lower cost per bit, but also allows the operator to offer differentiated services and opens up new revenue opportunities. For example, it offers the benefits of small-cell architecture with its potential for location-aware services (such-as retail, transport or stadium content), or an alternate access mode for machine-to-machine services such-as telemetry and video surveillance.

Cisco’s service provider Wi-Fi solution is designed to address these issues, as part of our integrated mobility architecture vision.

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