Benefiting from a Wi-Fi hot-spot when on the go could become easier, thanks to a move announced in February by telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent to integrate its cellular networking technology with Wi-Fi within operators’networks.
“Wi-Fi and cellular are mostly separate networks,”Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s wireless division told Informilo. The challenge is to ensure that wherever a user is and whatever access technology they are using, they are authenticated and get the same IP address, security and data encryption scheme. In effect this is extending existing cellular roaming to now also include Wi-Fi, he says.
Alcatel-Lucent has developed a way to use its existing Internet-Protocol service router to authenticate and secure a user on the Wi-Fi network. It has also teamed up with several Wi-Fi vendors to enable such authentication. So, going forward, “the network will choose the best air-interface for you depending on where you are,”meaning it will no longer be necessary to sign up and log in to a Wi-Fi service in a hotel or airport or worry about the security of a Wi-Fi connection, he says.
Alcatel-Lucent will also integrate Wi-Fi capability into its existing lightRadio cellular equipment. “Operators will only have to deploy one type of device in dense urban areas and it will do cellular and Wi-Fi,”says Sweldens.
In January South Korean operator SK Telecom announced it had combined Wi-Fi and cellular such that both technologies can be used simultaneously, to achieve data rates of up to 100 Megabits-per-second. However, the scheme requires specialized handsets and is a proprietary implementation.
The benefit of Alcatel-Lucent's approach is that operators will be able to better control and optimize the traffic on their networks, as well as offer new services.