2/8/2010 10:21:00 AM
Wi-Fi is the solution to data overload hotspots says BelAir Networks
Wi-Fi can provide a simple and cost effective solution for UK mobile operators suffering from data overload in hotspots such as London, according to Canadian Wi-Fi network provider BelAir Networks.
Stephen Rayment, chief technology officer with BelAir, told Mobile that UK operators have begun to wake up to this over the last 12 months. ‘Wi-Fi provides a way of offloading smartphone and dongle data traffic in hotspot areas onto the unlicenced Wi-Fi spectrum, leaving the licenced spectrum free for voice and text.
‘Whatever they might like to think, networks are still about providing good quality pipes. The UK is a highly competitive market and the networks need to differentiate themselves. Wi-Fi gives you a bigger pipe in targeted areas. So providing branded, targeted Wi-Fi is something they need to look at.’
Rayment argues that even if networks are going to invest heavily in LTE, they need to grab the real estate now to bag the best places to site their antennae. If they install Wi-Fi networks they will have pre-secured sites to install LTE antennae.
The probability is that both Wi-Fi and LTE will be running side by side anyway, according to Rayment. ‘You can add the LTE module with the Wi-Fi one, which will still be needed. We are the only company to offer a combined licenced and unlicenced frequency service. The networks will be able to offer a combined Wi-Fi and LTE service in one package.’
The Wi-Fi access points (APs) can be shared by multiple operators. ‘They can all be segregated and provided with different levels of service,’ said Rayment. ‘For example, we can provide a 3MB service for one and a 1MB service for another.’
BelAir has already installed a Wi-Fi network in the City of London (see photo) and in St Pancras Station, as well as providing local networks for Islington Council in London and in Bristol.
The Wi-Fi system involves installing APs on lampposts, traffic lights, buildings, existing street level BT cabinet boxes and even underground beneath fibreglass manhole covers. The point is to site the APs down where people congregate and not high up on remote towers.
BelAir’s software then integrates the APs into the core provider’s network. The system is managed centrally allowing operators to check the status of each AP individually and identify any problems.
The company also supplies indoor APs if required and has developed high-speed Wi-Fi systems for moving vehicles such as trains, which are capable of streaming video.