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Network Operators Start to Figure Out Wi-Fi Offload
Not long ago, mobile carriers wanted nothing to do with Wi-Fi, a technology they felt competed with their mobile data networks although it lacked the reliability, quality controls and overall coverage that their networks were capable of achieving.

However, for most of these mobile carriers a different reality may be starting to sink in: The usage of mobile data and content applications is growing much more explosively than anyone predicted, and is more than any 3G network can handle. For example, a recent Cisco Visual Networking Index report showed that global mobile data traffic grew by more than 133 percent in 2011 to about 597 petabytes, which is about eight times larger than the byte consumption of the entire global Internet in 2000.

Beginning last year, many carriers started announcing their strategies to actively employ Wi-Fi offload to manage network usage and capacity. In some cases, mobile carriers acknowledged after the fact that they had been using Wi-Fi offload for some time as though it were a family secret now safe to bring into the light. A growing number of carriers own and operate their own Wi-Fi hotspots networks, but some also assist their customers in accessing Wi-Fi hotspots owned by partners or other third parties. Meanwhile, more solutions are emerging that would enable carriers to leverage more independent third-party hotspots as part of their own offload strategies.

The shift in service provider attitudes about Wi-Fi offload marks the transition of offloading from a customer-driven usage trend to an operator-driven managed activity. Operators adept at streamlining Wi-Fi access for users may have much to gain or lose.

However, most mobile carriers are still very new to Wi-Fi offload. They are confronted by the fact that there are several different methods for conducting Wi-Fi offload, different portions of their networks in which they can enable it to occur and different degrees to which they can incorporate and integrate offload technologies into their networks and their operational strategies.

The remainder of this year and the near future are likely to witness a greater number of announcements of mobile carriers embracing Wi-Fi offload to address network traffic issues. For now, however, deployments will vary greatly from one carrier to the next. A good number of them will likely continue to be simple, smart applications that focus on helping end users discover and smoothly move over to Wi-Fi coverage.

Network Operators Start to Figure Out Wi-Fi Offload examines current drivers for Wi-Fi offload and assesses implementation options, as well as potential evolutionary paths this trend and related technologies may take. It identifies 18 players in the vendor ecosystem and the components that are in use in a Wi-Fi offload scenario. It also explores evolving industry attitudes toward Wi-Fi, its migration from a user-centric to an operator-centric activity and the criteria that are most important to network operators as they pursue strategies for managed Wi-Fi offload.
Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (mni0612_toc.pdf)
The different phases of Wi-Fi offload, as Greenpacket's Lee indicated, may be characterized by their reliance on different standards. Today, and in the near-term future, movement between mobile networks and Wi-Fi coverage could be governed by one or more standards.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies covered in this report include: Accuris Networks plc; Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX); Aptilo Networks AB; Birdstep Technology (OSE: BIRD); Broadhop Inc.; Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO); Devicescape Software Inc.; Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC); Greenpacket, the solutions subsidiary of Green Packet Berhad; Intrinsyc (TSX: ICS); Kineto Wireless Inc.; Nomadix Inc., a subsidiary of NTT DoCoMo (NYSE: DCM); Ruckus Wireless Inc.; Smith Micro Software Inc.; Stoke Inc.; Ubiquisys Ltd.; and WeFi Inc.
Total pages: 18
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