During 2012, Wi-Fi moved from being a stop-gap data offload for maxed out cellular networks, at best a value add, to a viable neutral host option with a workable business model for carriers. Major cities, such as Chicago, took a renewed interest in Wi-Fi as an engine for economic growth. Even the NFL woke up and wondered by each of its stadiums did not have Wi-Fi.
An important roaming standard, PassPoint, was established by the Wi-Fi Alliance in June 2012, which allows wireless devices to automatically discover and connect to Wi-Fi networks using Passpoint-certified access points, thus eliminating service set identification limitations. Also, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and the Small Cell Forum began working on protocols to integrate Wi-Fi and small cells to improve the user experience, increase network capacity and employ advanced traffic management techniques. Additionally, look for the 802.11ac standard to improve throughput speeds in the future.
2012 was the year Wi-Fi was brought into the wireless fold. Ericsson, for example, launched a stadium-optimized Wi-Fi solution, which consists of two products the AP 5114 — Wi-Fi access point and the WIC 8000 Wi-Fi controller — which work together to create a Wi-Fi network that is integrated with the mobile network – in keeping with Ericsson’s approach to heterogeneous networks.
Here are some of the key stories that illustrate the path of Wi-Fi in the last year.
TowerStream’s integration with two major wireless carriers has been completed and it expects to see them go live on its Wi-Fi network in the first quarter next year, Jeff Thompson, president, CEO and director of the company, told analysts on the third quarter earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. MORE
Wi-Fi has become a priority for the NFL, which has set a goal of having deployments at all of its stadiums. Bank of America Stadium, home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., is the latest and fifth NFL stadium to receive Wi-Fi, is equipped with more than 460 AT&T Wi-Fi access points.In addition to the Panthers’ stadium, the league is keeping an eye on Wi-Fi systems in MetLife Stadium used by the N.Y. Giants and N.Y. Jets, the New England Patriot’s Gillette Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Superdome used by the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. MORE
The city of Chicago is planning to use wired and wireless broadband as part of its plan to lure the next-generation companies and start-ups to open shop in the Windy City, dubbed Chicago Broadband Challenge. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said his administration will bridge the digital divide by expanding access to high-speed Internet services to underserved and disadvantaged neighborhoods, as well as increasing Internet access and speeds at institutions like schools, libraries, public safety agencies and parks. MORE
A new report shows that the combination of cellular and Wi-Fi greatly improves the business case for LTE and 3G small cells. When small cells are combined with Wi-Fi, it becomes a powerful tool for mobile operators to increase data capacity and reduce wireless data costs, according to a report from Senza Fili Consulting. The report, “The Economics of Small Cells and Wi-Fi Offload,” explores the business model for the coexistence of small cells and Wi-Fi within the same network and identifies strategies that enable mobile operators to optimize their networks and spectrum resources and to minimize per-bit costs. MORE
With carriers increasingly using unlicensed spectrum, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and the Small Cell Forum have decided to work together to integrate Wi-Fi and small cells to improve the user experience, increase network capacity and employ advanced traffic management techniques, according to a joint announcement made at the Wi-Fi Global Congress in San Francisco.
Gordon Mansfield, the Small Cell Forum’s chairman said in a press release. “Both [cellular and Wi-FI] technologies are crucial for supporting the never ending growth in data traffic. In the long term, each technology alone cannot meet this challenge – success can only be achieved by aligning the two.”
The two organizations will look at how small cells will impact efforts to simplify Next Generation Hotspot access, and optimizing the user experience and operator deployment strategies for Wi-Fi/small cell hotspots. MORE