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OPLIN 4cast #338: Real-time traffic steering

Posted in 4cast

ship wheelAfter reading the title of this post, you might jump to the conclusion that someone has finally created technology to effectively control rush-hour traffic. Sorry, but (so far as we know) that hasn’t happened yet. No, this post is about continuously steering wireless Internet traffic back and forth between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. If things work out as expected, someday we may no longer make any distinction between cellular and Wi-Fi networks, but instead talk about “heterogeneous networks” (HetNets). Nobody seems to know what this will mean for current Wi-Fi hotspots.

  • Real-time traffic steering that moves cellular to Wi-Fi networks in the works for mobile users (TechHive/Stephen Lawson) “Software now in the works will use real-time knowledge about network conditions to make lightning-fast decisions about the best system for each user to be on at a given moment. The idea is that just because there’s a Wi-Fi network nearby, doesn’t necessarily mean your smartphone should start using it. If every subscriber near that hotspot got switched over to it, the Wi-Fi experience could suffer.”
  • Interview: Ericsson CEO on the rise of the HetNet (GigaOM/Kevin Fitchard) “HetNets have three major components. The first is an umbrella — or macro — network designed to provide ubiquitous mobile broadband coverage. The second is a dense network of small cells that supply enormous quantities of bandwidth in the high-traffic areas its most needed. The final component is a network intelligence that ties those networks together.”
  • Ericsson, NSN focus spotlight on Wi-Fi traffic steering (FierceWireless/Tammy Parker) “The company said its real-time traffic steering feature is a software upgrade that constantly assesses key performance indicators in both the mobile 3GPP network and the Wi-Fi network before shifting a user’s smartphone connection between networks.”
  • Nokia Siemens, Ericsson look to ease WiFi offloading of mobile traffic (eWeek/Jeffrey Burt) “The goal is to create better heterogeneous wireless networks that give users a consistent experience as they seamlessly shift from 3G and 4G networks to WiFi. Mobile devices often will shift from broadband to WiFi when an authorized hotspot is available, which helps lessen the amount of traffic on already congested broadband networks and lowers the costs for mobile device users.”

Cost fact:
Cellular carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) already operate their own Wi-Fi hotspots in congested areas and simply “offload” some cellular traffic to Wi-Fi, because the cost of operating Wi-Fi hotspots can be less than half the cost of cellular access points.