The Convergence of Cellular and WiFi Networks

Michael Vizard

For the longest time, cellular networks and WiFi networks were largely considered competitive technologies. But like most things, a funny thing starts to happen when large numbers of end users start to actually use these technologies. In reality, it turns out that cellular and WiFi networks are starting to look a whole lot more complementary than competitive.

Case in point is an announcement from T-Mobile and Cisco under which T-Mobile will first look to route voice and data traffic over WiFi networks first before sending it over a cellular network. Obviously, end users will be happier because the cost of sending that traffic over a WiFi network usually run by the enterprise is a whole lot less expensive than paying to access the T-Mobile cellular network.

In the case of T-Mobile, the carrier is making this happen by embedding Cisco-Compatible Extension software on the smartphones and tablets that it resells to users of its services.The smartphones and tablet devices from T-Mobile will then look for UMA signals emanating from either T-Mobile cellular towers or WiFi networks and then choose the networks that will provide the highest quality experience, said Marc Rohleder, director of sales engineering at T-Mobile USA.

Rohleder said a WiFi option will be particularly attractive for international traffic, which can be routed over corporate networks at a much lower cost than any cellular network. Perhaps even more significant, video and other data-intensive traffic can also now be sent over the corporate network.

When all is said and done, the T-Mobile and Cisco alliance is a good example of how things should be when it comes to enterprise networking. Hopefully, other vendors will take note and follow suit. And who knows, there might even be a widely deployed standard some day. In the meantime, T-Mobile is creating a compelling case for being the carrier of choice in the enterprise.
 



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