The Vault

Panel Discussion - The Importance of Wi-Fi Offload
Video / Nov 2013 / Wi-Fi

Klaus: My name is Klaus [Kenti] I’m an analyst and consultant. I’ve been working on Wi-Fi offload issues and consulting clients in this for a couple of years. Very pleased to be here. I’d like to introduce you to our panel. And we have in no particular order, Mr. [Ton Brandt] of the [Wasbaubin] Alliance. He’s senior director of market and industry development yes? Right? It’s a long title sorry about that. We have Mr. [Cedric Gunaz] from [Orange], director of international carriers, data strategy and transformation, welcome. We have [Sammy Susiaho] head of technology for the cloud [Biskabee] Company. And we have last but not least [Alan Prohethus] executive vice president solutions group of Inter Digital. We’re at the Inter Digital stand.

We’re going to be discussing with these gentleman the importance of Wi-Fi offload as a technology and specifically what is going on, on the device client side enabling this marriage of Wi-Fi mobile, enabling the opportunity for mobile operators and others to extend the service range of their mobile offering to Wi-Fi and vice versa. So, one of the first questions I’d like to ask is just to get a high-level view from our panelists on where you think the industry is today as far as Wi-Fi offload is concerned and how long perhaps it will take before we see the real growth in Wi-Fi offload. Alan maybe you want to start with that?

Alan: All right. Thanks. It’s always great being the first mouse to get the cheese. Anyway, good afternoon everyone. It’s actually a very exciting time. I think there’s been a very large change from last year. If we go back a year in time we knew there was going to be some collision between Wi-Fi and traditional [sailor] access but we really weren’t sure how it was going to coexist, how to benefit each other. I think the big thing that I’ve noticed especially the last year has really been the acceleration of interest in ANDSF, the acceleration of interest in a standard-based approach, and people starting to wake up to the view that Wi-Fi is not the enemy, it’s really an extension of any other network assets that you have. It’s also potentially a very large revenue opportunity for you.

Sammy: Well initially we had a [carbo race] trouble, which is way, way gone. We sorted that out ages ago. Then we had a [capiste] problem in Wi-Fi [layer], which we’ve sorted out as well. Nowadays connectivity starts to be quite easy getting provision with credentials that allow you to automatically connect to the Wi-Fi. I think we’re there now and we’re getting [about]. The next problem will of course be that we have too many [in use of under Wi-Fi] and being able to manage how many years is this enough, when is enough enough. That’s going to be the next challenge. I think that’s something that we’re sorting out with defining [category] Wi-Fi in Wi-Fi alliance as well as broadband alliance. I think that’s what the industry needs. This work in my book [ends at 2017] so roll on.

Ton: I think it’s not a technical problem anymore. I think that Sammy kind of alluded to that. All the building blocks are in place, have been standardized, everything’s there. I think there are two main issues that we need to address as an industry. First of all it’s a problem of legacy networks. There are so many parts in the Wi-Fi system that are still not capable of doing passpoint 2.0 and next-generation hotspots. Not able to do policy control. So, I think that’s one of the points.

The other point is there’s still kind of a reluctance let’s say the operators in general. Not necessarily the mobile operators to dive in to that new technology. There’s still a feeling that we’re three-five years back in terms of what the technology can do. Basically what we did is we undertook a research to find out what is exactly the market opportunity and how much can an operator really drive his cost down or increase the revenue by doing [category] Wi-Fi? And what we found out is - actually we focused on 2018, which is still a long way out and I’m not saying that’s a tipping point. 2018 the operator opportunity for carrier-grade Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi offload is something around $180 billion globally. So, that’s a lot of company. So, I think what we need to do is kind of push out that message that it’s not a technical problem. There’s huge business opportunity out there.

Cedric: Yes so [unintelligible] what Wi-Fi as a mobile [barrier], reason [unintelligible] but there is a meeting between the mobile world and the Wi-Fi world. So, up to now I think Wi-Fi is part of the process by no [unintelligible] no spectrum control, passpoint and is [no ready] to assume its connection and so on. But no this is to the mobile [core] and the mobile [work] to do the [unintelligible] to join the Wi-Fi and to meet Wi-Fi. So, another point is if you look at the history of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi was launched in 2003 when [mobile operators] as only an edge as a [connectivity]. So, there was a lack of bandwidth and connectivity and Wi-Fi was really interested to increase its connectivity. Then 3G comes and Wi-Fi [interest] for [unintelligible] is decreasing until the 3G was starting to show congestion. So, now it goes out looking for offloading. [unintelligible] most [unintelligible] are using 4G. So, [unintelligible] a little less interest [unintelligible] Wi-Fi and more focusing on 4G networks.

But at the moment 4G [unintelligible] facing some problems especially coverage in indoors and [coded] areas and Wi-Fi will come back as an interesting solution to increase and optimize a spectrum as a global [unintelligible].

Klaus: Very good. It’s very interesting to hear an operator’s view on this of course. What I would like to ask you perhaps further Cedric is what would be the requirements from an operator like Orange or any other mobile operator in terms of what does it take both on the technical side and on the business [unintelligible] side to have Wi-Fi offload and the interworking of Wi-Fi and mobile become reality, do you have any thoughts on that?

Cedric: The most important thing is to have the best user [unintelligible] and the best user experience. So, when you introduce new technology and new [unintelligible] or anything if you are disturbing the user [unintelligible] you are losing all your results. So, it’s really [unintelligible] not to propose something maybe better on the technical side if it’s not well adapted by people if you disturb their user [edge]. So, the most important thing for operator is to be sure that introducing Wi-Fi into the global proposal will not affect and will enhance the user experience. And [unintelligible] to know that we don’t have all the mechanism available to be sure that the operators have the right [unintelligible] at the right moment at the right [desk]. [unintelligible] interesting to help us but we don’t have something very [unintelligible] fully transparent today. You still have to install something on your device. You still have to manage some user interaction.

It’s tricky for operators to add Wi-Fi as it is. So, we need to improve the [unintelligible] and to be sure that Wi-Fi is a really, really well integrated into the mobile phone network. If it shows up it’s fully transparent. [unintelligible] selection must be technical only issues for technical guys saying okay at this point I’ll send to Wi-Fi I’ll send to [unintelligible] not the user issues.

Klaus: I know some of you wanted to comment on that. How do you see that - I also had maybe another follow-up question to you regarding the role of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi offload for that matter with respect to LTE, do you have any comments to that?

Sammy: Well sure the term Wi-Fi offload. Usually the [MNOs] shroud on that because it’s actually onload. You get more traffic that you would’ve gotten. So, it’s not so much offloading data but onloading even more data, which is kind of one of the reasons why some operators do not want to do that, I mean that would cost the more money. Well there’s a revenue opportunity as well. But at some markets that’s a difficult thing to tap. But in terms of user [journey] we can only succeed with Wi-Fi offload if it’s effortless to the user, i.e. similar to cellular. If it’s completely transparent without the user doing anything. As I told BBC4 when they interviewed me about what’s passpoint ages ago after about half an hour I got to the point, I managed to boil it down to one sentence. I just said that effectively it’s like if you [unintelligible] your phone automatically connects to the network, a data network. You didn’t do anything. That’s effectively what passpoint will do to Wi-Fi and that’s what’s needed here.

Klaus: Very good points. Maybe I can just come over to you and ask you a question very specifically about the device client side because obviously Inter Digital is doing a lot of work in this area. And the importance of the device client, I think you said their goal you touched on the issue of seamlessness where you have the ability to manage the services in [an efficient] way. In a few words what is the benefit of the ANDSF solution that you have today and what is it that you can add as Inter Digital into this business of getting Wi-Fi offload [and the way] in the industry?

Alan: I think to address the client question first, I think as a company we agree about things moving more and more into the cloud. We’re supportive of that, we’re not fighting the tide there. When it comes to some of the functionality, some of the things you need the device to do to implement the solution, you just have to have a certain level of that intelligence on the device. It’s one of the points that comes up repeatedly in fact that the network [equipment] operators that we’re partnered with or our [inner operability is nested with] that they will even say as much as they think everything is moving into the network is great holistically, they still need someone who really understands the intricacies of a device that actually implement that policy. Sometimes especially for [unintelligible] limitation that’s where some of the harder work takes place.

The only reason that we got into this is because we helped do the modem stack on in partnership with Infiniti, which is now part of Intel and was actually on some of the earliest iPhones that were launched. We have people working in the lower layers of the stack for a big part of the company’s history. It’s only because of that expertise that enabled us to really create a very robust client and then implement these policies that are being pushed down by the network.

Klaus: Thanks Alan. From an industry point of view Ton maybe you can elaborate a little bit on the work that I know WBA is doing on pushing the industry forward in this area. I know you’ve been working with other industry bodies and so on especially in the hotspot 2.0 area so maybe you could elaborate on that?

Ton: Yeah sure so we’ve been working together with a large number of different industry [unintelligible] Wi-Fi Alliance obviously because they do the standardization certification of the passpoint devices. What we see however is that once you put that into an operator environment you integrate all those aspects into the back office, there’s still work that needs to be done. That’s a little bit of what Cedric said making the customer journey as seamless as possible. But also it’s not when you look at carrier Wi-Fi it’s not just the Wi-Fi offload or onload or whatever you want to call it, they’re all both, but roaming comes into the picture as well because you want to offload onto roaming partners. So, we’ve been working with the [GSMA] to kind of standardize a whole Wi-Fi to mobile offload and roaming process to that mobile operators can expedite roaming agreements with their mobile service providers. Last but not least is what we’re doing with the small cells [for] because Hetnet is going to be there.

Hetnet is probably even a better opportunity if you combine it with Wi-Fi. That’s what we’re working on to make sure that there is a seamless integration at small cell level between the cellular component and the Wi-Fi component.

Klaus: Thanks very much for that overview. I’m also thinking a little bit and on perhaps a more detail level as far as the device clients are concerned, there is part of the industry that says maybe a client is not needed or maybe there are other parts of the industry that say that the software that is equivalent to a client should be embedded into the [tripset] on some level inside. Is anybody willing to comment on that? Yeah Sammy go ahead.

Sammy: Well sure. It would be great if we had a unified way of sorting the problem out intelligently from the client end. I just cannot seeing that happening even if all the devices [unintelligible] immediately support whatever the mechanism it is we decided, we still have the legacy devices connecting to the network in their own unique bad way. So, I’m coming from a network sorting it out approach welcoming anything that you can do on the device and that’s well. But the brunt of the problem, the major issues have to be sorted out from a centralized point of view, which means standardization which means network-based approach. We need as much help as we can possibly get from the devices themselves. Especially in helping identify what kind of application is connecting because while I can decide whether or not the device can connect to my network I don’t really know what the device wants before it connects and starts doing it. So, that’s very much where I look for the device to help.

Klaus: Alan I know that Inter Digital is very much a believer in following the standards that have been laid out in following the industry consensus. Can you maybe briefly explain to us the importance of that?

Alan: Well I don’t really know how we get scale without standards. It’s just that simple. It’s the reason why quite frankly Europe led the world with GSM because Europe got together and said let’s get together and have a standard. For that reason Europe was the leader for most of the mobile history. I think you’re going to see the same thing here that if we try to solve this as little islands all with our own little special way we’re just not going to get the benefits of this.

Klaus: Very good. So, let’s talk a little bit about the business side of Wi-Fi offload. I agree with what what was said by Ton that the technology issues have to a great extent in my view been resolved at least to the point where people can choose to go the Wi-Fi offload root now that carriers can do that. And the ANDSF solutions are in place and so forth. The question is then what the right business models for doing this would be and I’ve been a proponent for a long time of creating combined mobile and Wi-Fi services and bundling packages together like that now that the technology is in place. Maybe Cedric you could comment on whether you think that’s a reality that’s worth going after?

Cedric: Yes. So, on business model you see that operators cannot just [unintelligible] Wi-Fi network just to do offload. So, offload is not a sufficient reason to deploy a network. The other point is that Wi-Fi is very well-designed for indoor locations, coded area [house], it’s mostly the case location where the location itself wants to provide connectivity. So, it’s [unintelligible] it’s [unintelligible], it’s [unintelligible]. So, these people in location want to provide connectivity but being operator [unintelligible] they don’t want to provide connectivity only for some customer of one operator. So, they have to spread something which is generic and universal. So, Wi-Fi would really fit well. So, what can you do operators in that case is to aggregate some different [unintelligible] stream on the Wi-Fi business case for one location. Location per location. [it will that] one location exists. You can first provide a B2B service to provide free access or paid access to anyone, whatever the subscription.

At some point you can put a layer of [unintelligible] grade Wi-Fi for your old customers to emphasize their own experience having a better network than the common one. And I’ve told you, you have to add all those [unintelligible] like location-based services, like advertisement, like partnering with other operators to share your networks, things like that. The Wi-Fi business case, I was doing [unintelligible] for Orange Wi-Fi and I tell you that it’s not the business of the year. So, it’s very difficult to make a lot of money on top of Wi-Fi because everybody thinks it’s free, both of the users, both the location so it’s very, very difficult to make value just on top of connectivity and as [unintelligible] we know that to our own ways called [as dumb pie] Wi-Fi is kind of [dumb pie] today so we have to put value on top of that by putting some new services.

Klaus: So, Ton maybe a comment on that. Again you also mentioned that it’s perhaps the confidence in the business case is lacking interaction or live commercial service of both Wi-Fi and mobile. What can we do as an industry to present or promote the business case options and drive it forward more than we are today?

Ton: Well I think it’s evident that there are a number of successful business cases in the market already. If you look at it on a global level. Asia has a different approach to America, America has a different approach to Europe. I think what we need to do is promote the business cases that are working. But nevertheless I think we have to step back and focus on what is a driver for [an] operator to take on Wi-Fi also. Is it because you want to reduce your end cost? Is it because you want to increase your bandwidth options for your clients? Is it because you want inbound traffic? Is it advertising? Is it a community extension and customer retention that you want? I think that is kind of leading into what the business model needs to be. Every operator is going to have a different choice on that. Certainly if you're a Wi-Fi only provider or a big media company, sorry about that. You're going to have a different starting point.

Offload is not the starting point in your strategy so I think that is where it becomes complicated because there are so many different angles to the business model.

Klaus: There are a great number of angles and the reason - I suppose the word Wi-Fi is sometimes a misnomer in this case because we are talking about the interaction of mobile and Wi-Fi networks and the seamless operability between the two. In terms of how content and services can drive the [uptick] I think maybe Sammy this is your business right?

Sammy: Yeah sure my bills are paid by media company who wants to offload a ton of video, unlimited amount of video, all-you-can-eat video ever where you go. That’s why we have more than 20,000 premium Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK’s high streets. It’s a very different proposition when you go from your dots on a map operator to your offload network and then go from there to service provider. So, [unintelligible] we might be the most intelligent dumb pie there is and we’re a dumb pie for a media company. We don’t have a problem of finding value from the network.

Klaus: And [unintelligible] the capacity issues come into play when people start watching Netflix and using [BskyB] services to watch movies and all of that. Perhaps I should ask you Alan what do you think if you look in the crystal ball if you have one of those is it mostly the opportunity for new revenues using the kind of technologies that Inter Digital is representing here? Or is it more a question of cutting costs and enabling more capacity in the networks and less cost? What’s the approach that you think is the biggest value?

Alan: Well I think to Ton’s comment I think really is in the eye of the beholder here. I know that MNOs love to hear when media company is going to offload everything as possible to your network and let you deal with the problem. I really think that again this is not just - it’s not a technical problem, it’s a business question. I think in the [unintelligible] it’s a cultural question. If you look back through history of this industry I’m a big fan of the history having been in this business a long time. Two things that I would suggest to help predict the future here. One is if you look back to things we take for granted today like mobile-to-mobile calling for free [at a lot] of markets is not being incremental minutes in some markets like it is in the US. That’s sort of the wire line side of the [2-2] operator [but then she] really came over.

If you look at before we had massive consolidation in telecom in general, 15 years ago some of the crazy business plans people would put out, I remember one was called the 12 days of Christmas plan where everyday up until Christmas there’s actually a different building scheme. Which if someone told you that today you would lock them away. But my point is I think the answer is going to come from experimentation. It’s going to come from really creative experimentation on small levels and learning and then adjusting. I just hope that when we look at the business model that we have the creativity to try some of those things to find out what the best combination is.

Klaus: Okay, so I’m going to throw the last question at you and it’s all about where we’re going to be in terms of interactivity between mobile and Wi-Fi in three years. Is Wi-Fi, I personally believe it’s going to be big within a timeline of three to four years it’ll become really big. And I think that every last mobile network operator will adopt some form of it, as many different forms, we could probably spend the rest of the day discussing that. But for our panelists where do you think we’re going to be with Wi-Fi offload three years from now? Maybe I’ll start with Cedric.

Cedric: So, as we discussed residents picking about [544] but Wi-Fi integration it was a [world mobile consistent] because when you speak about our [unintelligible] you say that by definition Wi-Fi is cheaper than your mobile and it has to be proved in some cases. Especially if you want to provide the same [unintelligible] and some [unintelligible] outstanding on Wi-Fi we need to [invest] in the right back hole, we need to invest in the right [unintelligible] in the right [unintelligible] technology. We have to [reinvent] all the building system behind to make sure that everything is consistent. It’s not just to play or put a few [bax IPs] on a [unintelligible]. This is not so [carrier-grade] Wi-Fi and this is not all we can [indulge] this technology in the future. So, as long as you accept that investing in Wi-Fi is something as strategic and as important as investing in new [unintelligible] in something different you have to make [unintelligible] on it.

If you do it you're not speaking about [unintelligible] but you are speaking about optimizing your network, giving all the best of your network to your customers and increase the user’s acceptance of connectivity because users are buying connectivity and not technology.

Klaus: Do you think Orange will have the integrated Wi-Fi and mobile networks in two years’ time? I’m putting you on the spot.

Cedric: Maybe a little after two years. I think already today is really focusing on 4G or [unintelligible] first. The second part will be the 4G [roaming were out] and to be sure that everything will be okay. And I think Orange will start to do something really consistent once we have all the technology tricks and technology [unintelligible] to be sure that the quality of services [unintelligible]. That there is no discrepancy on the users and that everything is standardized both on its own network [unintelligible] what we are doing with working with [unintelligible] and [unintelligible]. But once everything is standardized and okay and agreed between [unintelligible] I say most [unintelligible] will [unintelligible].

Ton: Well first of all the question kind of implies that Wi-Fi [unintelligible] happening if it is already but not on a global scale. I think that’s perfectly correct.

Klaus: [unintelligible].

Ton: The current Wi-Fi offloading roaming agreement between [Docomo, China Mobile and Korea Telecom] I think that’s a great example. What’s happening in the US with the cable companies. AT&T is doing some work. So, there is evidence that it is happening. I think the most important part is what Cedric said around mobile operators now focusing on primarily on LTE and they need to get over there legacy problems in their Wi-Fi networks. With that said I believe - well I’m convinced that within two years’ time provided that we also have a good handle on what everybody understands with carrier Wi-Fi is so that we can also introduce quality of service into Wi-Fi networks two to three years it’ll be common on a global scale.

Sammy: I think Wi-Fi [unintelligible] is already happening in many industries. There’s nothing really making it impossible. All the technical pieces are there. I mean [unintelligible] profile on their[handset] has the ability to connect to Wi-Fi effortlessly so the user doesn’t do anything. They’ve been there for eons. 2009 I think we [unintelligible] all the last [unintelligible] in problems. So, certainly nothing to stop you but your own free will as [unintelligible] and that’s all there is to it.

Alan: At the risk of being slightly controversial I’ll say there’s no question about Wi-Fi’s continue to influence in the next couple years. The question is who’s going to benefit from it the most? I would suggest to you that the operators are in the best position to benefit from it. But they were also in the best position to benefit from mobile payments, social, and app stores. Again it wasn’t a business issue. It was a cultural issue. I think that those who recognize, I would say Orange is one of the more leading ones in this case, but the ones that recognize what a fundamental opportunity this is like the ones I just mentioned and jump ahead of it will be the winners.

Klaus: I think that was a fantastic last words from this panel and I want to thank everybody for participating here. So, thank you to Alan, thank you Sammy, thanks Ton, thanks Cedric. I hope you all get a chance to do this again. Hopefully sooner rather than later. I think it was a great discussion. Thanks guys and thanks Inter Digital. wifi offload, 5g, Allen Proithis, Claus Hetting