Ericsson software automates Wi-Fi vs. cell choice in mixed networks

Mobile users won't get shifted to a carrier's Wi-Fi if it's not the strongest network, Ericsson says

New network software from Ericsson is designed to make sure mobile users get the best possible connection when there is both a Wi-Fi and a cellular network available.

The software, which Ericsson introduced at the CTIA Wireless trade show on Tuesday, is an enhancement to its platform for mobile operators that use Wi-Fi to supplement their cellular networks. It continuously measures which network will work best for a given subscriber and automatically shifts that user's connection between the two, the company said.

According to Ericsson, this capability can prevent subscribers from being shifted from cellular to Wi-Fi and then kept on the Wi-Fi network even though it's slower than cellular in their current location.

Many carriers are deploying or partnering for Wi-Fi networks in order to offload data traffic from their cellular systems, embracing so-called heterogeneous networks. In addition to conserving cellular spectrum and capacity, this can give subscribers better connections when near the Wi-Fi networks, which most often are deployed in crowded areas.

But actually delivering a better connection requires knowing whether Wi-Fi or cellular is the best available network in a particular spot at that moment. Ericsson said its software can make that determination and carry out real-time traffic steering between the networks. The new feature works without any special software on the device or effort by the user.

The company also said it now offers access selection, a self-optimizing network tool that ensures good performance across Wi-Fi and cellular by automatically balancing the load between the two networks.

Also at CTIA, Ericsson introduced other elements of its growing carrier Wi-Fi lineup: a carrier Wi-Fi access point based on the emerging IEEE 802.11ac standard, two hardware controllers for Wi-Fi networks, and integrated management of Wi-Fi and cellular networks on a common platform.

The new technologies complement standard mechanisms for roaming among Wi-Fi and cellular networks, including Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint and the 3GPP's ANDSF (Access Network Discovery and Selection Function), Ericsson said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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