Adtran today announced software that works in combination with the company’s WiFi hot spot equipment to enable network operators to use the hot spots for cellular offload and to manage them using a cloud-based approach. As Mads Lillelund, general manager for Adtran’s Bluesocket Business Division, explained in an interview, the cloud-based approach eliminates the need for the network operator to deploy numerous access point controllers to support the WiFi offload network.

The approach is similar to the one used by some enterprises that operate WiFi networks in multiple locations, Lillelund said. By using Adtran software running in centralized data centers, those enterprises are able to control functions such as user authentication and security that would otherwise be handled by access point controllers at each corporate location. Many network operators already have their own data center infrastructure and can easily create their own cloud infrastructure by operating Adtran’s software on servers located in those data centers, Lillelund said.

He cautioned, however, that WiFi offload is considerably more complex to manage than an enterprise WiFi network. For example, one function, he said is to enable access points to talk to each other and constantly check one another to make sure each is functioning properly. In addition, he said, “If I start to move, [the network] will know where I’m going” and will “make sure my credentials move with me as I move between access points” and will “disconnect behind me.”

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“The failure rate on access points is very low, but if the hardware goes, an adjacent access point will realize it went down and will start to cover the area,” added Lillelund.

Adtran’s new offering is based on the Hotspot 2.0 standard and relies on technology that the company acquired when it purchased Bluesocket last year. The offering will be “hypervisor agnostic,” Lillelund said, but Adtran is implementing the solution first on VMware because that technology has an 86% market share.

Adtran Vice President of Global Marketing Gary Bolton said he expects the cloud-based approach to be popular with a variety of network operators, including tier 1, 2 and 3 carriers.

As of now Adtran claims to be the only company offering a cloud solution for WiFi offload. Bolton said he expects to see other companies coming out with similar offerings, but “we don’t know how far off they are.”

With mobile data traffic volumes skyrocketing, WiFi offload has been a hot topic over the last few months, with everyone from cable companies to Intel getting in on the act.

 

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