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September 13, 2013

Wi-Fi: The Next Generation

Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) technology could generate $150 billion for operators by 2018, according to information released by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and research firm Senza Fili.

WBA's NGH program has been designed to provide a Wi-Fi hotspot experience that is as seamless and secure as connecting to a cellular network. With America's embrace of mobile devices and its growing appetite for data, cellular networks need a solid solution to offload traffic during busy times.

NGH elements include Passpoint-certified equipment that can support 802.11u and 802.1x Wi-Fi networks as well as EAP authentication. Users can transition from cellular to Wi-Fi without tedious login pages and repetitive authentication. In other words, mobile devices would easily roam between cellular and Wi-Fi.

Passpoint-certified equipment is capable of logging onto Wi-Fi networks seamlessly. NGH then integrates Passpoint-certified devices and their hotspots into the cellular network's back end. The connection is treated exactly like a cellular link, which makes Wi-Fi just another cell on the network.

NGH can also transition sessions between networks and prioritize which networks devices roam. Data sessions, voice calls, media streaming and mobile wallet functions would function without interruption. One potential downside is that carriers could feasibly bill for both data usage and Wi-Fi, despite most users' appreciation of convenient and cost-free Wi-Fi access.

After a trial conducted by vendors and operators, WBA found that using NGH on just 20 percent of networks cut cost-per-bit by 18 percent. Also, the per-bit cost of 4G combined with NGH could equal just 38 percent of what a 3G macro network costs. With Wi-Fi working hand-in-hand with small cells, carriers can support 167 percent more traffic without adding to their current cost levels.

NGH also saves on cost-per-bit over legacy Wi-Fi technology. When all of these cost advantages are combined, WBA predicts that NGH will carry 9 percent of the world's mobile traffic to generate the $150 billion in operator revenue.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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