Carrier WiFi gets added support from Ericsson, Birdstep and NSN

More evidence of move to enable mobile core integration of WiFi access points as Ericsson, Birdstep launch ANDSF-based products.

Ericsson has announced enhancements to its WiFi controllers, adding 3GPP standards that will enable mobile operators to manage policy-based services out to devices connected to WiFi access points.

The company is launching a Wi-Fi controller blade for its Evo Controller. The WIC 8100 controller supports up to 10,000 access points and 500,000 concurrent subscribers, Ericsson said, allowing operators to consolidate multiple Wi-Fi networks from a centralised location.

The product supports industry standard features including: Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF), IP session mobility (also referred to as IP address preservation) and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint (based on the Wi-Fi Alliance Hotspot 2.0 Specification).

Ericsson said that by combining features such as ANDSF with its own SON technology and network load balancing, it has introduced “real-time traffic steering”, allowing operators to determine network conditions and connect the user to the best connection.

Connectivity management provider BirdStep
recently announced ANDSF-based products, including advanced analytics support to feed operator decision making and policy.

With these tools, operators have access to real-time information about their own or partnered Wi-Fi access points

NSN has also announced enhancements to its Smart WiFi product based on ANDSF and claimed that it, in fact, has the “industry’s most comprehensive traffic steering” capabilities, following the introduction of two new elements, the Wi-Fi Service Manager and Wi-Fi Activation Manager.

An NSN press release said:
With these tools, operators have access to real-time information about their own or partnered Wi-Fi access points. Operators can then enhance customer experience with dynamic traffic steering between cellular and Wi-Fi networks based on real-time network load. The traffic steering capabilities can be complemented with sophisticated ANDSF rules based on user profile, timing, location and application usage ensuring that mobile operators have necessary tools to start enhancing their networks with Wi-Fi traffic steering today.

As well as ANDSF support, the new capabilities also support IT-based HotSpot 2.0 ANQP Access Network Query Protocol (ANQP), which will enable devices to select the optimal Wi-Fi access point for best mobile broadband quality when the operator decides to steer subscribers to Wi-Fi.

Daryl Schoolar, principal network infrastructure analyst at Ovum:

“Both Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks announced plans to offer real-time network steering to their mobile infrastructure customers. These traffic steering solutions will help in the balancing of traffic between the mobile network and Wi-Fi.

“While both Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks also support standards based ANDSF, and their announced traffic steering solutions complement ANDSF, both are proprietary.

“To use Ericsson’s real time traffic steering solution a mobile operator needs to use Ericsson’s mobile radio access network, its Wi-Fi access points, and its wireless LAN controller. As an operator needs all three of these elements to deploy Ericsson’s traffic steering solutions, this could limit its market impact.

“Nokia Siemens Networks has not yet provided as much detail on all the elements needed to deploy its traffic steering solutions, but Ovum wouldn’t be surprised due to its proprietary nature that it doesn’t require at least the deployment of NSN’s mobile radio network gear in conjunction with the Wi-Fi network for the solution to work.”