While the industry is already discussing plans for 5G, the future of wireless carrier services probably looks a lot more like your existing (and admittedly less exciting) Wi-Fi router. The reality is that 4G/5G is ideal when you’re on the move, but not so much when you’re sitting in a chair indoors—which is what most of us are doing, most of the time. No wonder then that Wi-Fi has quickly (if quietly) become the wireless network of choice for enterprises and consumers. In the U.S., 60% of all mobile data consumed by smartphones and tablets is currently carried over a Wi-Fi network. In Europe, that number is even higher, at 78%.
Why are subscribers choosing Wi-Fi? It’s cheaper (because it’s “off-network”) and it works better indoors, where 3G/4G signals are often weak. But Wi-Fi also lacks the quality/security of a true 4G experience, creating an opportunity for fixed and mobile network operators to provide a carrier-class Wi-Fi experience by integrating Wi-Fi connectivity into their core networks—and, yes, generate revenue from Wi-Fi services in the process. The challenge, as with most network transformations, is how to do this quickly, seamlessly and cost-effectively. The answer is virtualization.
The Benefits of Wi-Fi Network Virtualization
At Affirmed, we have enabled fixed and mobile operators to rapidly deploy a complete, secure Wi-Fi gateway solution—Trusted WLAN Access Gateway/Proxy (TWAG/TWAP) and evolved Packet Data Gateway (ePDG)—on consolidated, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. This drives down cost and complexity because it reduces the number of boxes in the network, and it allows network operators to quickly deploy a complete, proven and centralized solution that can be easily scaled across geographies.
We’ve taken the concept of consolidation even further by adding virtualized Value-Added Services (VAS) to our solution so that network operators can rapidly create and seamlessly orchestrate services over Wi-Fi networks to enhance the subscriber experience. Network operators, including one of North America’s largest cable providers, are already using our solution to deliver Voice over Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi roaming services.
One of the biggest barriers to bringing Wi-Fi into the core network is the issue of scalability. This comes to the fore when dealing with untrusted Wi-Fi networks, which require a high number of IPsec-encrypted sessions that can quickly test the limits of a physical gateway. Affirmed has solved this problem with a highly scalable, virtual ePDG solution that can increase the number of IPsec-encrypted sessions on-demand by dynamically and intelligently shifting processing resources in real-time without requiring additional hardware. As a result, fixed and mobile network operators can confidently bring Wi-Fi services into their LTE networks and deliver a seamless, high-quality experience over any wireless network.