Wireless Service Providers (WSP) have been extending wireless coverage for both Wi-Fi and LTE/3G/GSM/CDMA by using Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS). Using Wi-Fi for offloading data from LTE/3G networking is an attractive value proposition for WSPs. Typically DAS deployments have significant installation and maintenance cost and this cost sometimes is taken care by the carrier provider but in most cases the venue owner needs to bear this cost. In most cases this cost cannot be mapped to direct revenue and is considered as part of infrastructure cost.
With the ubiquitous presence of Smart Phones with Wi-Fi, usage of voice using applications like Whatsapp and Skype are increasing drastically, it is predicted that with good data connection bulk of the voice communications among the younger population will go through such applications. For a venue operator in places such as shopping malls or sports complexes attracting younger population with high-speed free internet can be a worthwhile exercise. The cost of infrastructure can be mapped to increase in ticket sales or shopping sales. Further Wi-Fi installation is relatively inexpensive and free from many of the government regulations.
Although Wi-Fi installation is cheaper, bringing in the fibre cables or POE cables from each access point to a centralized controller can be a significant cost. But it can be reduced using Wi-Fi Mesh. The Wi-Fi Mesh has good maintenance properties as well. The Wi-Fi Mesh can re-configure itself in cases of failures and can sustain basic connectivity until repairs are completed.
It is possible for the venue owner to lease the Wi-Fi to multiple carrier operators or provide independent Wi-Fi internet service. The Wi-Fi internet service can be free at basic rates, premium rates can be levied for use of secure and high speed networks for the complexes with-in the shopping malls. Part of the access point bandwidth can be used for community Wi-Fi models.
New Sources of Revenue
Channelizing all the data through a WLAN controller in the premises or in the cloud can provide a means for new sources of revenue like analytics and spot advertising. This centralized data forwarding can also simplify meeting government regulations for lawful intercept. The WLAN controller can manage the access points, provide Radio Frequency (RF) management, ensure good RF coverage and can create self-healing networks. With 802.11ac providing the necessary capacity, bandwidth to handle the data load from a large number of subscribers through the mesh network becomes available. The support for 802.1ac is not mandatory for existing user devices since the access points supporting multi-mode Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n and 802.1ac) can handle user side interoperability with 802.11ac being used. It acts like a trunk for higher data rates between the access points and the controller.
Wireless Mobility Management
The use of a WLAN controller also brings in the capability for Wireless Mobility Management, allowing users to move across and be served by different access points without losing a connection and without having to re-authenticate themselves at each access point. The controller can also handle user roles and billing integration thus providing good user experience for the subscriber and facilitating business process integration for the service provider. Business models from wholesale to retail with flavours in-between can emerge to make it a cost-attractive option for subscribers and also viable investment with immediate business for service providers and building owners. A controller can also load-balance subscribers across access points thus ensuring network availability and good coverage for paying subscribers.
The support for TR-069/REST APIs in the controller facilitates installation, service setup, turn-on and operation in a seamless manner, avoiding the need to provision individual access points or even the controller for each service provider or their subscribers.
Why Wi-Fi complimenting DAS?
Overall distributed antenna systems, together with a WLAN controller managing a Wi-Fi mesh network can provide an extremely viable option for in-building wireless solutions providing greater connectivity, excellent data rates and good coverage to subscribers at very reasonable costs, and a potentially significant revenue stream for service providers and building owners.
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