With mobile operators increasingly showing interest in WLAN (wireless local area network) technology, Mobility Network Systems and Canadian carrier Rogers AT&T Wireless (NYSE: AWE) have successfully tested an integration technology that delivers Wi-Fi service through GSM/GPRS (global system for mobile communications/general packet radio service) systems. Mobility said that in product trials held in Toronto, Ontario, it integrated its WiFiRAN technology with Rogers AT&T Wireless' GPRS network within 24 hours.
WiFiRAN enables mobile operators to offer wireless LAN services without changing their existing GPRS networks. Mobile operators thus can use investments in their next-generation infrastructures to offer authentication, charging and billing, and security to the public WLAN.
The technology also paves the way for multi-access applications, such as roaming between GPRS and WLANs. A number of mobile operators have recently announced plans to incorporate WLAN systems, but unlike Mobility Networks' approach, most offer the service as a standalone system, making it more difficult for mobile operators to integrate it.
Complementing Existing Offerings
Carriers, previously hesitant to add WLAN service, are taking a second look at the technology as a complement to their existing offerings, Naveen Dhar, vice president of marketing and business development at Mobility Networks, told Wireless NewsFactor.
"Instead of running public WLAN as a standalone, we are enabling operators to leverage the advantages they have with huge customer bases, security features and roaming agreements," he said. "Our system is an extension of an existing GPRS network."
Dhar added that the company's technology enables service providers to offer various authentication features, including the GSM security card or a user ID/password system. Operators can choose to run their own Wi-Fi hot spots or to establish ties with other businesses that provide public connection points, he said.
The Wi-Fi Opportunity
The UMTS Forum, which promotes 3G (third generation) wireless systems worldwide, recently released a study stating that WLAN services will not be a substitute for 3G, but they could be an additional source of competitive differentiation for wireless operators.
"WLAN -- and particularly public Wi-Fi services -- represents a niche opportunity with acceptance among business users and cannot be ignored by carriers," forum chairman Bernd Eylert told Wireless NewsFactor.
Eylert pointed out that in Europe, carriers Telia and T-Mobile are entering the WLAN market as a complement to their next-generation high-speed data networks. In the United States, Verizon Wireless and VoiceStream/T-Mobile have made similar moves.
WLAN technology represents an opportunity to expand market size and strengthen competitive position, and it could become an essential component of every global or national mobile operator's service portfolio, according to the forum.
Cheers ~ Arne
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