The telecom industry is still struggling with the concept of ‘commodity’ (spelled as IP-bit pipes). Are we dealing with a “destructive race for the bottom” in a market which wants more and more bandwidth at cheaper and cheaper prices? While the traditional wireless manufacturers are pondering over “5G” to be deployed 2020, many telcos now look at more short term solutions to the “revenue gap” (scissor curves, bandwidth crunch) problem. WiFi offload is the new battlecry. The traditional difficulties of roaming to and accessing a foreign WiFi networks are now addressed in the recent IEEE 802.11u standard proposal, that aims at freeing up access based on ad hoc commercial arrangements such as hotspot roaming agreements. The standard opens up for two new initiatives, the Next Generation Hotspot (driven by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (“WBA”) ) and Hotspot 2.0 (Cisco) initiatives target standardized seamless authentication and handoff so that users can roam between different types of networks (including WiFi). This Cisco Whitepaper on explains how 802.11u is extended to automate the network discovery, registration, and access steps a Wi-Fi user today must do manually.
Will the whole world be a gigantic hot-spot with seamless handover ? Probably. Will this replace 4 & 5 G technologies ? Well, the IEEE 802.11 suite of system is indeed a much simpler and cheaper solution to fast bandwidth provisioning. The lack of interference coordination and the limited spectrum, however, puts severe question-marks regarding the scalability of the solution. What will be the capacity of WiFi in high density urban setting ? The brute force solution is to install even more access points. If this a doable remains an interesting (trillion dollar) research question.
KDDIs WiFI offloading solution for voice is advertised below – voice as an app!