Can Wi-Fi and cellular services be combined into a single service fabric to serve consumers everywhere? The short answer is yes. Converged networks are inevitable simply because Wi-Fi provides big capacity at low cost to the mass market.
The flagship, high-profile case for convergence is Google Project Fi, which combines two cellular networks and Wi-Fi hotspots into a single fabric. You can read more about it here. In the USA especially, ‘Wi-Fi First’ service providers such as Republic Wireless, Scratch Wireless, and FreedomPop have created a new class of mobile services that are very low cost and rely on Wi-Fi networks up to 95% of the time.
“Converged networks – meaning a single service fabric over both cellular and Wi-Fi access – are inevitable. Wi-Fi provides the massive capacity & performance boost at low cost that all wireless services will eventually need.”
The technology components of convergence are the following: Device client technology (such as ANDSF or similar) allowing intelligent network selection, Wi-Fi calling in app or native form, core network solutions to ensure managed & secure connections to open or carrier-managed Wi-Fi networks. Some of the most important independent tech vendors for intelligent device clients are Birdstep, Chemring, and Canada’s Pravala.
Community Wi-Fi – or ‘homespots’ is an important component of converged services. Homespot tech solutions include those of e.g. Fon, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, and others. Homespots turns a CPE or home Wi-Fi router into a public access hotspot – extending the footprint of cable operators to millions of hotspots. Ziggo – who will be speaking at Wi-Fi NOW in Amsterdam – is an excellent example of just that as is KPN.
It sounds simple but getting the business case & the technology right is not obvious. That’s why we’ve invited the world’s convergence experts to Wi-Fi NOW to present the solutions – and discuss the implications.