The recently concluded Mobile World Congress once again witnessed a lot of buzz around mobile data offloading via WiFi and Femtocells - great timing for my first blog for Juniper! The rapid growth of data traffic from smartphones and tablets emphasises the need to offload traffic to smaller cells. The recent announcements that we saw at the MWC were emblematic of the wider developments in the market, with the launch of many products by vendors such as Cisco, Ruckus, Stoke, Ubiquisys, Tellabs and others.
Given that the widespread deployment or roll out of 4G/LTE networks to take several years, with data traffic on the rise, offloading data to complementary networks promises to be an opportunity for the network operators to reduce the capacity issue. By shifting data traffic from the 3G network to Wi-Fi or femtocells, operators can reduce costs and improve service revenues by balancing traffic demands across the network. Even though most operators have acknowledged how critical offloading is, there is still no consensus on whether to select femtocells or WiFi for offloading the data traffic.
While some operators are trying to choose one over the other, we believe both femtocell and WiFi are complementary technologies that will co-exist in the market. Even though both femtocells and WiFi differ from each other in some aspects, both seek to solve the same capacity issue and are often referred to as competitive solutions. Both technologies seem to have their own merits and demerits against each other. WiFi and Femtocells are expected to integrate together for customers to connect to the Wi-Fi network for data services and to use the 3G/4G network for voice services.
Over time, operators will eventually be able to exploit the potential opportunities that WiFi, femtocells and other techniques – including network optimisation - have to offer. Our research on the topic shows that even though currently WiFi accounts for over 90% of the traffic offloaded, femtocells will account for a steadily increasing proportion of offloaded data over the next five years. Juniper’s latest report on Mobile Data Offloading, scheduled to be published next month, analyses the mobile data offload market in detail and provides extensive coverage of operator and vendor strategies in this space. So do keep your eyes open for the forthcoming release!!