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Ericsson prepares small cell kit for WiFi

This is the way it goes with WiFi. It's cheap enough to embed on a 'why not?' basis on all manner of consumer devices, most recently of course cellphones. At first only some users will actually use it, and then only some of the time. It was thoughtfully embedded on my old Nokia N95, for instance, although way back just pre-iPhone and I don't recall ever firing it up.

But plant it patiently in devices and inevitably use cases are found and usage slowly grows until WiFi becomes a crucial add-in.

Ericsson's CEO, Hans Vestberg has been telling GigaOm's Kevin Fitchard, that Ericsson is going to follow pretty-much that line of strategic reasoning on the other side of the air interface. The company has already fully integrated the outdoor WiFi it bought with BelAir into its first small cell products.

That means the technology will just be embedded and ready to go if and when the operator decides to invoke it. The idea is that the two technologies could work in tandem, with the cell network doing the tricky stuff (voice, high quality video etc) while the WiFi - operating as it does with 'likely to be contended' public spectrum - could do the bulk transfer work where minor glitches, dropped packets and judder are less likely to be a major problem.

According to GigaOm, Vestberg said it would become a standard feature but that not all networks would use it. If and when the wanted to, they could upgrade with a small board implant or even (depending on the kit) with a software patch.

Ericsson is planning this combo approach to be 'seamless' with the network (in conjunction with the handset) handling handovers between cell and wifi. The rollout is being planned the last quarter of this year.

See our original Erisson buys BelAir article

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