Handoff/handon: Ericsson offers hetero marriage between WiFi and cell

May 23, 2013

One anomaly that's come to the fore over the past couple of years - as smartphones have learnad to hand off to WiFi when available - is that the default setting can work against the user experience. Where at the beginning of the smartphone boom any heavy data download tended to struggle on cell and the affect of flicking to WiFi was similar to that of a diver coming up for air, things have moved on (in some cases anyway).

With better, faster 3G networks now often supplemented by much better and faster LTE, users have been finding that the 'experience' on cell is often better than on WiFi anyway, but the way most phones are set up once the switch is made there's no way back, except through manual intervention.

In conversations with carriers it's becoming clear that this is seen as a problem too. Where all offload used to be good, operators are now concerned that they are aren't getting the credit for improved network performance. They want the offloaded back!

Ericsson's new software has been designed in the first instance to support heterogeneous networks (of which it's a supporter, of course). It continuously measures which network is working best for a specific subscriber and passes the connection between the two networks. Seamless handoff between WiFi and LTE, for instance, is now a done deal (it was demonstrated by Telefonica in Barcelona this year, for instance.

In Ericsson's case, it claims the software is designed to work without the support of any client software on the smartphone (the preference for telcos, since they want to support multiple feature and smart phones). Decisions about which network to connect to, when, could also be made against policy rules, of course, which might give network neutrality advocates a problem or two, but that will depend on how carriers deploy these types of 'seamless' solution.

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