Wi-Fi: hit and myth
James King, ceo of cellular/Wi-Fi interoperability specialist AirSense Wireless debunks some popular fictions.
Mobile devices now include what we used to call mobile phones, those dark chocolate bar-sized things that meant you could talk to the world when you were in coverage area. The evolution of smartphones has given users the ability to attend to e-mail, Facebook and even bank accounts on the move. And whilst mobile networks enjoy increasing revenues from mobile data users, the great majority of smartphones today have a Wi-Fi capability when data download/upload rates are minimised, depending on the location and contractual issues the user has with the inherent network.
Users of BT Broadband in the UK have up to 3 million national ‘hotspots’, and customers of several other ISPs have coverage in the UK, albeit less than that offered by the former incumbent. With the great majority of today’s smartphones (Android, iPhone. Blackberry) taking the largest points in user uptake (who wants a mobile that only talks to your contacts?) many have a Wi-Fi capability. So mobile Wi-Fi is the order of the day. As they move through the UK, whether on train, bus and car, Wi-Fi coverage is there for users, and all they need to do it log on.
Pubic Wi-Fi is on the up but is it still a mystery?
10 myths of Wi-Fi busted
The rapid growth of Wi-Fi has resulted in myths springing up about the technology. Here we look at the top ten impacting the market and consider how they can be challenged.
Wi-Fi is bad for battery life
In tests using regular usage patterns we found that in terms of time, a user actually gets 64% more minutes when using Wi-Fi over using cellular
Wi-Fi is always better than cellular
Over several deployments we’ve built a picture of how often Wi-Fi is better than cellular, and vice versa. In tests, we found that 44% of sessions undertaken would have achieved better coverage by staying on cellular
Normal people don’t pay for Wi-Fi
Users are increasingly building their own ‘hypernets’: effectively compositing together cellular and Wi-Fi networks to complete their own data access networks. In doing so, most are effectively paying for Wi-Fi because they are getting it as a bolt-on service from paid-for subscriptions to network and solutions providers such as BT, Virgin and Sky.
Wi-Fi is only useful at home
The bias to home usage is changing as the number of Wi-Fi hotspots accelerates and Wi-Fi usage in public places grows.
No problems in cellular
In our deployments we’re seeing unserved demand on cell towers at various times of the day while Wi-Fi networks at the same locations remain under-utilised.
Premium Wi-Fi is better than free
In fact, neither is ‘better’. It’s how you manage the connectivity that matters. Reliance on either free or premium Wi-Fi will diminish the user experience.
Data offloading = revenue offloading
In our experience, when AirSense is implemented, cellular continues at its usual pace of increasing by about 2% to 3% per month while Wi-Fi sees significant increases in usage. As users realise they get more access, they use it more.
It’s a connection management problem
Many people couch the problems raised by Wi-Fi and cellular interoperability in terms of connection management. This is an oversimplification. By building solutions to include extra hypernet-optimised services, such as data mining and analytics, we are building richer technology that enables new revenue opportunities.
EAP-SIM solves everything
There are issues with reliance on EAP-SIM. In the near term not every device supports it; but, more importantly, in EAP deployments the switching decision is delegated to the operating system, which usually prefers Wi-Fi regardless of QoS. Contrary to common belief, authentication is far from perfect either, with ‘Wi-Fi stranding’ a real possibility.
ANDSF/ANQP will save the day
802.11x/u standards, which provide the basis for wireless network operators using the Wi-Fi brand, are important for security, authentication and user experience but the provisioning of devices through ANDSF is not perfect.
Making it clear
Confusion around Wi-Fi has led to the several myths surrounding it remaining unchallenged but as hypernet usage becomes more prevalent, and the need for seamless switching between networks more urgent, it is more important than ever that these myths are challenged and dispelled.