When the usage of mobile Internet started to rise dramatically due to the enhanced capabilities of smartphones, along with the increasing development of innovative applications and ecosystems around wireless devices, Mobile Network Operators AKA Wireless Internet Services Providers, started to search options to handle the huge increase in traffic that was not only affecting the quality of the data service, but was also eroding the revenues due to costly expansions to allow the access to services that weren’t even provided by WISPs. The costliest resource is the spectrum, it must not only carry the user traffic, but the signaling that controls the access to the service; a big part of popular mobile applications use today, need the exchange of tremendous amounts of signaling that summed to user traffic deplete the available spectrum in the access part of the network and causes choke points in the core part. But the plot thickens; the most popular and globally adopted cellular technologies do not make an efficient use of the cellular spectrum, and as widely known now by MNOs, the devices producing the heavy traffic are devices not exactly mobile, but nomadic! These and other issues are shifting the original objective of offloading as a solution.
The Offloading Options for WSIP/MNO
The offload move is a critical maneuver in rugby. Image taken from: http://www.rugbystoreblog.co.uk/2011/08/02/all-blacks-vs-south-africa-the-game-in-photos/
Before addressing the offloading issues, I would like to name briefly the options for MNO at the moment of this blog realization; I separate them into two categories; Core techniques and Access Techniques.
KT (Korea Telecom) corporation is operating a 3W network integrated by WCDMA, WiFi and WiBRO (Wireless Broadband using WiMAX) networks, this network operator has an interesting strategy of usage and offloading policies that should be studied an adapted by other WISPs.
The rise of WiFi
A recent blog written by Stuart Taylor, highlights several findings from his study on the matter, the document displays how this access technology is becoming the preferred option for several devices and not only that, but the technology holds an incredible and favorable reputation among users, who sees it as a cheaper, faster, easier, more reliable and even more secure when compared to cellular access, I was really surprised about the perception of security. It was believed manual user and password authentication would become an adoption obstacle, but current state of usage has proven otherwise, plus the Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint program promises to transform the technology into a really seamless and reliable access, so it will be logical that mobile device users begin to spend more time on the WiFi access than in the cellular network, additionally if coverage continues to grow and the current tendency of OEM to widen the offer of Wi-Fi only devices like tablets and portable readers that have a clearly market advantage since can be sold without contract ties of permanence and costly cancelation fees, then you’ll quickly end up with a substitute service in your hands.
A Network Built For a Rare User
In another document, Mr. Taylor and his colleagues concluded that mobile Internet access is nomadic, and specifically is located at home, very different from the fully mobile Internet access that a cellular network tries to provide. On the other hand and as mentioned previously, device availability is contributing on the election of the network access, normally the first device acquired is an smartphone, and so is very unlikely that mobile devices purchased later be tied to contracts or permanence clauses of cellular providers, these devices obviously will be connected to the open not limited and faster Wi-Fi, even more considering that tethering allows an easy way of sharing Internet access among devices.
Going Back to Basics
If the original objective was to provide a better service to the user then is time to start configuring it, whether you are a cellular operator or a WISP using a mixture of access technologies, the increase of data usage will always represent a risk for your service, and quick action must be taken understanding that offloading is more a workaround and not a definitive solution, once offloading is in place the Mobile Service Provider must:
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