Much of the research published about mobile data tends to focus on the predicted volume that is expected to be demanded by users. While there is some disagreement on the absolute numbers, there is a solid consensus that it’s going to be large. Of course the interpretation of this varies. One recent report has provided useful insight, which points to an area that MNOs will have to address.
According to industry analysts Juniper, 60% of mobile data traffic will be carried, not by conventional mobile networks, but by WiFi . The network of tomorrow will be a mix of LTE, legacy technologies such as 3G, and a diverse set of small cells that leverage WiFi and related technologies.
This means that MNOs must increasingly consider how they will route traffic in their network. Until now, users have often unilaterally selected WiFi access to obtain faster download speeds, avoid costly roaming charges, or to bypass their plan limits. This manual selection has the result that they typically leave their MNO’s network for a competing WiFi solution where one is available.
By deploying a greater mix of WiFi, small cells and macro cells, in other words, moving to heterogeneous networks, MNOs will increasingly include alternative access technologies as part of their offer. This will help them retain customers and fully leverage their investments.
But, to ensure that users leverage these, MNOs need to help them in network selection. They need to be able to seamlessly connect users to the best available network and to do so selectively, based on the demands of different applications and traffic types.
This is where the ANDSF comes in. It’s early days for this new(ish) entity, but it is likely to assume a central role in future networks. Juniper’s research implies a significantly increased role for the ANDSF, as something has to manage the selection of the most appropriate access technology and this is the most likely solution.
It’s not going to be sufficient, however, to simply deploy centralised ANDSF solutions. MNOs will need to extend ANDSF and TDF functionality into mobile devices, to ensure that traffic management and access network selection decisions are made according to local conditions and demands.
The network is evolving and migration to LTE will lead to many changes. But headlines about the growth in mobile data traffic don’t tell the whole story. MNOs need to consider the likely mix of data traffic on their network as well as the kinds of applications that drive it. This level of detail will help them determine the appropriate mix of access technologies in their (heterogeneous) networks. MNOs will need to explore how a distributed ANDSF architecture can help them achieve optimal traffic routing. Device-based ANDSF solutions will complement those in the network, helping deliver the best customer experience and ensure that users stay connected to the MNO network.