Mobility and Wireless Are Building Bridges

Carl Weinschenk
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Increase in Data-Hungry Devices Set to Be Most Disruptive Force in Wireless Industry

There is no question that the amount of wireless and mobile data floating around is growing. The only real question is whether it is growing very quickly, extremely quickly or amazingly quickly. The explosion - coupled with the fact that much of the data is time-sensitive - has the entire industry concerned. A key challenge going forward for service providers and their vendors is keeping up.


At the highest level, there are two ways to do this: Increase the bandwidth available or more efficiently use what already is in play. Cisco took a stab at the latter approach at the 2012 Mobile World Congress this week in Barcelona. The company introduced the Small Cell Gateway. Essentially, the product - which the press release says is based upon the company's ASR 5000 Series Mobile Multimedia Core Router - is designed to bridge the gaps between existing technologies and techniques. It will:

... enable operators to manage subscriber and service information while integrating 2G/3G/4G LTE and femtocell (licensed) networks with Wi-Fi (unlicensed) networks, to deliver seamless experiences across multiple heterogeneous access networks.

In other words, the company is offering a way to unite and organize the many networks that have evolved organically and separately during the past three decades.


The fact that this is a hot topic was made clear by the Femto Forum, which has changed its name to the Small Cell Forum, according to Computerworld. The name change, apparently, is indicative of a broadening of the group's mission:

Femtocells, originally designed for use in homes with installation by the subscriber, are now blurring into more robust small cells and Wi-Fi access points -- sometimes combined in one unit. The new categories of gear are more likely to be set up by carriers themselves to cover an indoor area or a high-density public space. Because they allow carriers to essentially reuse their own spectrum in local areas, these infrastructure pieces are drawing interest from service providers to deliver more capacity, according to the Forum.

Cisco was a participant in an event sponsored by the group at MWC.


CNET's Marguerite Reardon has details on ongoing standards efforts, which focus on Hotspot 2.0 from the Wi-Fi Alliance and 802.11u from The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Much of the research focuses on allowing devices to discover and easily sign onto networks.


Initiatives aimed at rationalizing the hodge podge of wireless and mobile platforms already are in the field. PCWorld reports that mobile carrier SK Telecom used MWC to display its technology, which combines Wi-Fi and LTE in a single unit. The goal is to buttress the carrier's South Korean network, which has more than 1 million subscribers despite only launching last July. Rollout started last December and is slated to become full scale next month, the story says.

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