What is the Hypernet and how do you build it?
James King, ceo of connection management specialist AirSense Wireless, investigates…
The infrastructure of the mobile Internet has changed. The emergence of data-hungry mobile devices such as smartphones, iPhones, iPads and tablets is outpacing the ability for carriers to cope with the escalating demand for data downloads. Even with the impending launch of 4G, they simply cannot keep up, and the user experience is likely to suffer. With users becoming increasingly sophisticated and expecting better, faster connectivity this is a serious issue for carriers. The emerging Hypernet offers a potential solution.
A term coined by two leading US venture capitalists, Roger McNamee and Mike Maples, ‘the Hypernet’ is increasingly gaining traction as the generic term to describe the ecosystem that results from combining the Internet with cellular and data networks. Sometimes referred to as the Internet on steroids, the Hypernet is, in the words of McNamee, “the sum of the wired Internet and the mobile data infrastructure for cellular and Wi-Fi.”
Today, the term is growing in importance due to the ongoing proliferation of mobile data devices and the trend towards ubiquitous Wi-Fi. Combined with escalating user demands for seamless and transparent data access, regardless of source, it is clear that the foundations of an industry are moving. In McNamee’s view, people are shifting away from browsing the Internet on computers and moving towards mobile devices; in many cases using apps as their primary means of interaction with the Web.
According to McNamee, “before the iPhone, 95% of connected devices ran Windows. I don’t know what Windows’ share is today, but it must be less than half that, as Microsoft’s share of app phones is roughly zero. For all intents and purposes, Microsoft lost half its addressable market to app-based devices.” Over time, the balance is likely to shift even further away from traditional computers. Instead of relying on index searches through Google, for example, users are increasingly choosing to consume the services they need via mobile apps designed for particular tasks.
From the subscriber perspective, the Hypernet provides the right connection for the task at hand, at the right time. Typically, users do not care whether they are on a cellular or Wi-Fi connection as long as the connection is up and they can receive the data and information they need as effectively as possible.
Finding a solution
Until now there has been limited technology available to connect the elements of the Hypernet together such that a user can enjoy genuinely seamless, transparent data access as they roam across cellular and Wi-Fi networks. This has caused a problem, with users often experiencing connectivity issues when being moved off the cellular network onto a Wi-Fi hotspot. This can be caused by problems with Wi-Fi authentication or issues with the general quality of service of the Wi-Fi network. The outcome: user frustration, and a detrimental impact on the user’s experience which is bad for everybody involved.
This technology gap is now being bridged through a portfolio of innovative solutions to meet the urgent needs of users. Regardless of whether they be on an iPad or an Android smartphone, these solutions will mean that users are always connected to the best available connection for their present needs.
As Wi-Fi and cellular services become more available on the market, mobile data users are becoming ever more sophisticated and demanding. Mobile operators have reacted to those demands by bringing Wi-Fi into their portfolio of network products offered to mobile subscribers. However, the first generation of ‘Wi-Fi connectivity apps’ deployed by the operators have often fallen short of customer expectations: just look at the scathing reviews on the App Store and Play. Users often finding themselves offloaded onto Wi-Fi but then ‘stranded’ as their phone fails to switch seamlessly from 3G to Wi-Fi. Reasons for this can be issues with authentication or very often a Wi-Fi hotspot which is overloaded and running at lower bandwidth than the original 3G network. Unnecessary complexity and counterintuitive design has not helped, often resulting in un-installation.
Users crave simplicity, usually best expressed in terms of zero-touch connectivity; a single solution that covers all of their requirements, rather than multiple apps from multiple service providers, and the best available data connection in quality terms whenever and wherever they need it. To meet this demand, mobile carriers now need to take better control over the Wi-Fi services that they provide. As well as holistic authentication management, the technology also now exists to allow a mobile operator to take factors like time, place, subscriber type, device type, and quality of service, into consideration before taking the decision to deliver a subscriber’s data across Wi-Fi.
The components of the Hypernet - Wi-Fi and cellular - are now in place. Yet, to create the integrated mesh between these two technologies and turn the potential of the Hypernet into a reality, operators need to implement solutions that manage Wi-Fi and cellular to enable intelligent movement across the networks. Fortunately, with new solutions coming on stream that can facilitate this, the vast potential of the Hypernet is now set to be realised for users. And, of course, mobile carriers stand to benefit too from this ongoing migration to the Hypernet, as technology providers begin to emerge capable of helping them provide an optimum user experience.
AirSense Wireless is confident about the future for this new technology and believes that the combination of the Hypernet with potential new user experiences that involve billions of nodes and millions of clouds (which Roger McNamee and his associate Mike Maples call the Hyperweb) are “the prime forces of a massive new gathering wave” which they will predict will be “much larger than the social networking wave because it has a larger hardware component to it.”
Real people are trying to build their own Hypernet today. We have been trained to do certain tasks over Wi-Fi, and other tasks over 3G. We are all familiar with the 50Mbyte download limit imposed by iOS on 3G app downloads. We all know that leaving Wi-Fi on all the time drains battery power when out and about. We have all been travelling and gone on a hunt for free Wi-Fi in hotels and restaurants. We all know not to bother with YouTube when sitting on a moving train. Carriers are in a unique position to offer their expertise and skill to manage these choices automatically. Ultimately, if this new technology wave is to prove a long-term success, solutions providers capable of providing the seamless connectivity that will increasingly become synonymous with the Hypernet will have an increasingly important role to play.