Ericsson, NSN focus spotlight on Wi-Fi traffic steering

Separate announcements from major infrastructure vendors Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks highlight the growing importance of carrier-grade Wi-Fi and intelligent traffic steering connectivity between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

The companies announced real-time network-based traffic steering for their mobile infrastructure customers, which, in turn, want to enable their end users to automatically access the best connection available, whether Wi-Fi or cellular.

"One of the problems with Wi-Fi offload has been the fact the Wi-Fi network can become just as congested as the mobile network, especially if all the end-users opt to use the Wi-Fi network over the mobile network. Mobile operators have had very few options when it comes to traffic steering between the two networks to optimize performance," said Daryl Schoolar, principal network infrastructure analyst at Ovum

Schoolar noted that while the two vendors support standards-based Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) and their announced traffic steering solutions complement ANDSF, both solutions are proprietary. ANDSF rules cover items such as user profile, timing, location and application usage.

Ericsson's real time traffic steering solution works with the vendor's mobile radio access network, Wi-Fi access points and wireless LAN controller. 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.

Ericsson, which got into the carrier-grade Wi-Fi offloading game in February 2012 when it cut a deal to acquire BelAir Networks, has also added support for access selection, a self-optimizing network (SON) feature enabling load-balancing between Wi-Fi and 3GPP networks to optimize the average user experience.

NSN said is enabling traffic steering by adding the Wi-Fi Service Manager and Wi-Fi Activation Manager to the Smart Wi-Fi platform it launched in February at the Mobile World Congress. The tools enable operators to conduct dynamic traffic steering between cellular and Wi-Fi networks based on real-time network load.

"Offloading traffic to Wi-Fi is only the first step to help mobile operators handle traffic congestion. With the new traffic steering capabilities, we go beyond offloading to steer traffic flexibly onto the most appropriate radio network, according to the operator's strategy and actual network conditions," said Randy Cox, head of NSN's small cells product management.

For more:
- see this Ericsson release
- see this NSN release
- see this Mobile World Live article

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