As of late, we have been witnessing an exponential growth in mobile network data. In the 4th generation (4G) of 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) networks, LTE (Long Term Evolution) has reached significant bandwidth utilisation, increasing overall user experience. In parallel, Wi-Fi technology (802.11) has become not only the "de facto" local access wireless technology, but is a popular deployment in public access as well (hotspot).
Considering this outcome, 3GPP has designed the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), incorporating in it aspects allowing multiple wireless access technologies to be used for accessing the same services, beyond the native E-UTRAN (Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network) and 3GPP legacy. In this way, existing Wi-Fi networks can be used to complement 3GPP networks, further increasing overall throughput, while capitalising on existing investments and ultimately reducing cost per bit.
At this moment, several operators already opt for offloading part of their customer traffic via Wi-Fi networks, allowing less congestion in 3G/4G networks and ensuring a better overall quality of experience. However, these strategies have been assembled over decoupled solutions. The Wi-Fi access network does not offer the same capabilities than 3GPP networks, namely concerning service continuity in mobile environments, as well as Quality of Service (QoS).
This project will study all aspects that allow the transparent utilisation of a Wi-Fi network as if it was a native access network belonging to (E-)UTRAN. Particularly, the following aspects will be considered:
- Seamless network discovery and selection, similar to what happens in 3GPP, where the network is automatically discovered, as well as the roaming agreements between different operators (in case of Wi-Fi, via HotSpot 2.0);
- Seamless authentication, avoiding user intervention, whether for network selection (SSID), or for its authentication;
independently of the used mechanism (portal, password, etc.);
- Seamless mobility allowing customers to handover between 3GPP and Wi-Fi networks (mobility), with no connection or flow loss (session continuity), ensuring, for example, IP continuity. Mobility policies can be obtained through a ANDSF component (Access Network Discovery and Selection Function), amongst other mechanisms.