BARCELONA, Spain--Mobile operators should be rolling out public Wi-Fi access points in order to secure locations for current offloading operations as well as for future placement of equipment such as small cells, and one way to build up an inventory of locations is to offer venue owners Wi-Fi as a service (Waas), said Selina Lo, CEO of Ruckus Wireless.
Some operators have deployed Ruckus' Wi-Fi gear outdoors on street furniture such as lamp posts, and the experience has shown how difficult site acquisition can be in such cases due to community opinion and local and state zoning issues. Such issues do not generally impact indoor venues, where siting is much easier because a service provider generally needs to deal primarily with the venue owner, said Lo during a presentation at the Wireless Broadband Alliance's Carrier Wi-Fi Summit, held here in conjunction with the Mobile World Congress trade show.
However, she said there is currently something of a land grab going on when it comes to venue acquisition for hotspots. "For a service provider, it is critical to grab the venues now," Lo continued, explaining that locations snagged today for Wi-Fi access point deployments could very well be the small cell locations of tomorrow. "You can deploy Wi-Fi today and 3G/4G in the future," she added.
According to Lo, offering managed services for Wi-Fi networks to venue owners is becoming a critical part of carrier Wi-Fi as it provides for a great entry point for operators that want to gain a foothold indoors. "We are looking at this as a big opportunity," she said.
In the case of managed services, an operator can offer to deploy a Wi-Fi network and oversee it for tenants at a particular location in exchange for also being able to use the Wi-Fi access points to deploy the network. A venue owner might even pay the service provider for conducting the managed services.
During MWC, Ruckus announced a strategic partnership under which it will integrate and market Global Reach's Cloud-based policy, management and authentication technology. Global Reach Cloud-based network solutions are designed to offer simplified user provisioning, policy controls and advanced user and network analytics, along with custom portal and authentication services.
"We believe the combination of Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi with Global Reach's Cloud-based software services will effectively transform the market for managed public Wi-Fi access networks," said Nigel Wesley, CEO for Global Reach.
Lo said Ruckus has long advocated separating the network control plane and data plane in order to have a hosted control plane at the data center or regional distribution point that can serve multiple tenants. Separate SSIDs can then be offered for public and private use, she added.
A virtualized controller is the right direction, Lo said, explaining virtualized WLAN control enables the tools needed to accelerate delivery and scaling of Wi-Fi managed services.
She also discussed the potential for Hotspot 2.0-enabled enterprise services, saying customers could organize to allow common network sign-ons for loyalty programs. Such services require a Hotspot 2.0 roaming hub service, Lo said.
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