Industry Focuses Efforts on Wi-Fi, Coordinated Shared Spectrum, and Convergence of Wireless and Computing

With spectral availability in diminishing supply, meeting the data challenges of 5G will require the industry to become increasingly resourceful—exploring new ways to leverage licensed, license shared, and unlicensed bandwidth to support a growing array of devices and requirements, while still maintaining good quality of service (QoS). While there are myriad standards bodies, industry groups, and other organizations working day and night to navigate the complexities of enabling the next generation of wireless services and experiences, there are areas where additional focus is needed, particularly as it pertains to the operationalization of unlicensed spectrum, including Wi-Fi. The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has released several reports over the course of the last few weeks talking about industry efforts to enable a converged wireless broadband ecosystem, capable of delivering an exceptional user experience and seamless quality of service for every person, thing and use case.

As a Board Member of the WBA, I am delighted to see the publication of four new white papers – which Intel either co-authored or contributed toward – designed to answer open questions and suggest a coordinated approach to intricate issues.  The papers focus on: how to understand, prioritize, and mechanize QoS metrics to enable the seamless use of Wi-Fi; how to improve upon current 3GPP and Wi-Fi Alliance policy standards related to Wi-Fi usage for enhanced interoperability in complex environments; how to best approach the coordinated use of shared spectrum; and how to evolve existing value chains and roaming models to create, new monetizable opportunities for unlicensed wireless within the 5G Internet of Things (IoT).

Quality of Service on Carrier Grade Wi-Fi

Over the last several years, significant strides have been made in standards permitting mobile devices to securely connect to Wi-Fi hotspots —but the quality of the user experience remains an issue. This white paper makes recommendations for a systematic approach to gathering Wi-Fi network performance data, enabling mobile devices to intelligently select networks and route traffic based on QoS metrics, resulting in improved Wi-Fi connectivity and a better end user experience. With mobile data traffic over Wi-Fi already exceeding cellular traffic and projected to grow as we enter the 5G era—the ability for a device to decide whether it should connect, or continue to stay connected to a Wi-Fi network in an automated fashion is gaining importance.

Convergence of Cellular and Next-Gen Wi-Fi Networks—ANDSF and HS2.0 Policies

The 3GPP’s Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) and the Wi-Fi Alliance’s (WFA) Hotspot 2.0 technical specifications and policies have been pivotal in guiding mobile device operations related to the discovery, selection, access and intelligent usage of wireless networks based on predefined rules for prioritization. However, they are limited in their capacity to support deployments requiring multi-vendor coordination on authentication schemes, subscription services, and roaming rules impacting cost and QoS. This white paper looks at how to converge and improve upon these two sets of policies with an always-best-connection (ABC) approach for devices, simplifying deployments in complex heterogeneous environments managed by mobile operators, Wi-Fi service providers, and public Wi-Fi venues. This convergence will be critical to the efficient delivery of 5G services over multi-comms radios employing many access methods concurrently.

Coordinated Shared Spectrum

With most of the sub-6 GHz spectrum fully-allocated, new regulatory approaches are being explored to open these bands for commercial development, while protecting the interests of incumbents via prioritization. Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the U.S. and Licensed Shared Access (LSA) in Europe are two leading examples of approaches to the use of Coordinated Shared Spectrum (CSS). This white paper provides historical context on CBRS and LSA; evaluates the expected benefits and outcomes of both against existing solutions, and suggests areas of opportunity for the WBA to help support the commercialization of CSS. Shared spectrum models will help operators rapidly address the scarcity issue, densify their networks, and extend their capacity and reach to meet the coming demands of 5G.

Internet of Things: New Vertical Value Chains & Interoperability

Much of the growth in wireless traffic is expected to come from the introduction of nearly 50 billion smart things and 212 billion sensors to the network by 2020. Given the relatively low amount of data each of these things is expected to use, Wi-Fi service providers will need to evaluate new business models to recoup investments in unlicensed technology and subsidize the delivery of services, for example: big data capabilities, advertising solutions, and more. This white paper delves into value chains, business models, and opportunities to innovate in the 5G IoT, and outlines suggested technology improvements to accelerate the deployment of 5G services, supporting a range of devices with diverse requirements in disparate verticals.

As a member of Intel’s Communications and Devices Group, as well as the Board of the WBA—I can’t stress enough how important each of these efforts is to preparing the industry to successfully launch and support the next generation of wireless services and experiences. The WBA is one of more than 250 standards and industry groups that Intel participates in worldwide. As we speed toward a historic inflection point where wireless and computing converge to form the “network of all networks”—Intel is helping industry define the future of 5G.