Beyond Connection Management
It's a problem that will be familiar to thousands, if not millions, of mobile users across the UK. You've found a seat on the train ready for the daily commute. You settle down to check your email on your smartphone. Your phone, previously running on a 3G network, 'picks up' the nearby wi-fi and tries to connect but, unbeknown to you, the wi-fi network is sitting in the background waiting for authentication details to be delivered via a web landing page. In the meantime, the phone has moved off the 3G network. The user is now in data limbo unable to download emails, or browse the internet.
What you are experiencing is a phenomenon called 'stranding'. Your phone is trying to link to a wi-fi network but can't sign-in. So, although it is showing you to be connected to both cellular and wi-fi, you are left 'stranded' without data access.
Ultimately, mobile subscribers will want to use what is the right connection for them at the right time. They don't care whether this is a cellular or wi-fi connection as long as they are able to achieve seamless connectivity whenever and wherever they need it, preferably without having had to take any action themselves to enable that to happen.
So, as more mobile carriers start to introduce wi-fi into their offerings, they are increasingly realising that there are numerous connection-management issues that need to be addressed. At the same time, they are beginning to look for technology partners capable of intelligently managing these issues for them.
Unfortunately, many of the first generation of management solutions currently available on the market lack that intelligence. Users are frequently offloaded onto dead hotspots, or caught in authentication limbo, with stranding being one of the most common impacts.
Another concern with many legacy approaches to the problem is that they are limited in terms of the number of networks and locations to which they can connect. Often, they can only link to a single wi-fi network, which means they will typically limit themselves to tens of thousands of locations rather than the millions potentially available.
The alternative is to have several apps installed and to remember which one you have to use to get onto which network. Unfortunately, this is laborious and time-consuming.
Leveraging the Hypernet
The market has been crying out for a completely new approach - one that delivers ubiquitous internet access to mobile data users and that can take into consideration factors such as time, place, data device type, and critically, the relative quality of service between the cellular and available wi-fi networks.
Today, the emergence of the 'Hypernet', the ecosystem that is created by meshing together cellular and wi-fi networks, is providing the driver for new solutions that address these issues. The Hypernet is growing in importance due to recent exponential growth in mobile data devices and escalating user demands for seamless and transparent data access regardless of source type.
We are now seeing the development of a portfolio of innovative solutions to meet the urgent needs of users, based on the provision of seamless data and connection management, meaning users are always linked to the fastest available connection, wherever they are in the world.
With the proliferation of wi-fi and cellular services now available on the market, mobile data users are becoming ever more sophisticated and demanding. What they are demanding is seamless connectivity, a single client that covers all their requirements rather than multiple clients, and the best available data connection in quality terms whenever and wherever they need it. And, ideally, they want all this to happen automatically without having to be involved themselves.
The components of the Hypernet - wi-fi and cellular - are now in place. Yet, to create the integrated mesh between these two technologies and turn the concept of the Hypernet into a reality, operators need to implement solutions that connect wi-fi and cellular and enable seamless movement across the connection. Fortunately, with new solutions coming on stream that can facilitate this, the vast potential of the Hypernet is now set to be realised.
James King is CEO of AirSense Wireless