According to analyst and consultancy firm Arthur D Little , offloading mobile traffic to WiFi is “essential”. In the annual report from Arthur D Little and Exane BNP Paribas, it is claimed that WiFi offload will be a “key element of mobile operators’ network strategy”.
The primary reason given for this is that it can lead to significant efficiencies in spectrum utilisation. Although in the long term, 4G gives many benefits in terms of achievable speed, there is still a need for network diversity and small cells to complement macro sites. By using a mix of small cells that do not use valuable 3G and 4G spectrum, operators can use the spectrum that they own more efficiently.
To benefit from these efficiencies, MNOs need to develop a WiFi offload strategy. But it’s not sufficient to install small cells and simply obtain additional coverage, relying on user selection. They need to be able to make the process of switching between WiFi and 3G / 4G networks seamless, so that customers are given dynamic and automated routing options.
This is where the ANDSF comes in. It’s a new element that helps co-ordinate the selection of available access networks in line with the policy of the network operator. By deploying ANDSF solutions, MNOs can enable the automatic selection of adjacent WiFi networks for either all traffic from an individual user or even on a dynamic basis, according to the needs of each application.
Such solutions can dramatically simplify choice for users, enabling automatic registration and seamless handover, depending on configuration by the MNO. The ANDSF is essential to implementing an effective WiFi offload strategy.
However, to ensure optimum performance, the ANDSF must be able to support different policies for different users. One user might have a different price plan and access rights from another. In this case, ANDSF functionality needs to be available at the level of individual user devices.
GoS Networks’ ANDSF solution adopts the innovative step of decomposing the functionality between the GoS Agent and GoS Manager. The GoS Agent acts as distributed ANDSF client that can be deployed on mobile devices (UE), while the GoS Manager provides co-ordination, policy administration, distribution and backend database functionality securely in the network, managing all active distributed ANDSF clients via the S14 reference point.
By deploying distributed ANDSF clients under the co-ordination of a central server in combination with GoS Networks’ distributed PCEF functionality, MNOs can establish a range of policies to meet the dynamic needs of the network and users, obtain visibility and control of local conditions, and increase user satisfaction and customer experience.
If WiFi is to really make a strategic contribution to MNOs’ businesses, they need to consider how this can be achieved. Only by complementing their small cell deployments with the means to integrate fully into their policy framework will they be able to maximise returns from their investments. Deploying a distributed ANDSF client is a necessary step to reaching this goal.