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Signals Ahead: Cellular and Wi-Fi Network Integration

  • ID: 2102003
  • Report
  • March 2012
  • 25 Pages
  • Signals Research Group, LLC
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Signals Ahead: Cellular and Wi-Fi Network Integration

During the last couple of years, mobile operators have outright embraced Wi-Fi, considering it a key access technology under their umbrella of access networks. The challenge remains solving many of the network-related issues which currently diminish the potential effectiveness of Wi-Fi and which degrade the user experience.

Work in the various standards bodies has helped in this regard, and some of their efforts will soon materialize in commercial networks. HotSpot 2.0, for example, supports more advanced authentication schemes and it enables the automatic discovery of Wi-Fi Networks. However, HotSpot 2.0 is better suited for pure-play Wi-Fi operators than it is for cellular operators who want to offer an integrated Wi- Fi offering.

Starting with Release 6, the 3GPP supported the concept of I-WLAN, which introduced new network elements specifically designed to provide closer integration of the two networks. Although the commercialization of I-WLAN hasn't really taken off - in part due to some important limitations, it did set the stage for the tighter integration of Wi-Fi in the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) network that comes with LTE.

This effort also set the stage for additional work in Release 10 and subsequent releases to allow operators to make better use of Wi-Fi and to provide an even more compelling [and entirely seamless] user experience when roaming between 3GPP and Wi-Fi networks. Important features as well as a more advanced policy control architecture with ANDSF will allow operators to leverage the most appropriate network(s) for a given set of policies.

This report is part of Signals Ahead Subscription or can be purchased separately.


Signals Ahead is a research-focused product that is published on a periodic basis. Its clientele include all facets of the wireless ecosystem, including some of the largest mobile operators, the top handset suppliers, the major infrastructure vendors, subsystem suppliers, semiconductor companies and financial institutions, including Wall Street, Private Equity and Venture Capitalists, spread across five continents.
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Table of Contents from the Full Report

Why Operator Wi-Fi?
Operator Wi-Fi is growing rapidly
Extending Coverage
Broadband Operators
Wi-Fi Aggregators
Long Tail Wi-Fi
Challenges for Operator Wi-Fi
Standards and Organizations
Wi-Fi Integration in Operator Networks
Authentication and Billing Integration
Web Based Authentication and AAA integration
SIM Based Auto Login and AAA/HSS Integration
3GPP Packet Core Integration
Wi-Fi Integration With LTE-EPC
Mobility Enhancements for Cellular-Wi-Fi Integration
Multi-Access PDN Connectivity (MAPCON)
IP Flow Mobility (IFOM)
Non-seamless Offload
3GPP Packet Core Integration – Is it really required?
Network Discovery and Policy Control
Access Network Discover & Selection Function (ANDSF)
HotSpot 2.0
Merging HotSpot 2.0 and 3GPP features
Wi-Fi Roaming
Carrier Grade Access Points
Connection Manager – a key piece of the seamless Wi-Fi network puzzle
Small Cells and Wi-Fi
Implementation Roadmap
Final Thoughts

Index of Tables

Table 1. The Supply versus Demand Imbalance – Assumptions and Results

Index of Figures

Figure 1. 3GPP I-WLAN Architecture
Figure 2. EPC and Wi-Fi Integration
Figure 3. IP Flow Mobility
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