Alcatel-Lucent integrates Wi-Fi with mobile networks

Users will be able to authenticate using the SIM card on their smartphones and move between the two networks without interruptions

Alcatel-Lucent is integrating Wi-Fi with mobile networks with its lightRadio architecture, allowing users to move seamlessly between the two networks and authenticate using the SIM card, the company said on Tuesday.

As mobile data demands have increased, mobile operators have increasingly turned to Wi-Fi as a means to handle growing traffic volumes. It has now come to the point where many operators no longer have a choice, but have to use Wi-Fi, according to Parker Moss, vice president of Wireless Marketing at Alcatel-Lucent.

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Wi-Fi is already used by many operators, but a new specification called Hotspot 2.0 -- which is being developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance -- aims to take the use of technology to the next level. Alcatel-Lucent's implementation is called lightRadio Wi-Fi, and it allows users to authenticate using the SIM card on their smartphones and move between two networks without interruptions, according to Moss.

At Mobile World Congress, which starts on Feb. 27, Alcatel-Lucent will build a live network with metro cells and Wi-Fi, and to show off its capabilities it will force them to do hand-offs while a video is running, a spokesman said via email.

There is no need for a special client on the smartphone or tablet for the integration to work. Network software automatically selects the network connection based on criteria such as service type, subscription type and network congestion levels.

Networks will also be able to make intelligent decisions depending on user conditions. For example, even if users are within Wi-Fi coverage it doesn't make much sense to connect them if they are on the move, so then it's better to stay connected to the mobile network, Moss said.

The lightRadio architecture uses slimmed-down base stations that can be placed almost anywhere. LightRadio Wi-Fi is comprised of the 7750 Service Router; new software for Alcatel-Lucent's policy manager, the 5780 Dynamic Services Controller; and femtocell or metrocell base stations with integrated Wi-Fi.

The 7750-gateway and the upgraded policy manager are both in trials now, and will start shipping in the next couple months. The metrocell base station with Wi-Fi will become available during the fourth quarter, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

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