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Stoke Ups Ante on Wi-Fi Offload

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 7:02am
Maisie Ramsay

Mobile broadband startup Stoke has come out with a new network gateway designed to make it easier for operators to dump network-clogging data traffic onto Wi-Fi connections.

Operators can leverage the new Wi-Fi Exchange gateway without having to install any special software or hardware on smartphones - a nice feature when you have millions of devices on a network.

Stoke calls the feature its "clientless interworking solution." In plain English, it means that smartphones don't need software or hardware modifications for the technology to work. It's all done on the network side.

The gateway is targeted at offloading traffic in business settings and in congestion-prone areas like sports stadiums, coffee shops and airports.

Dave Williams, chief technology officer at Stoke, says the technology allows operators to stay connected to their customers instead of setting them adrift on random Wi-Fi networks.

Williams says Stoke's gateway helps devices perform better because its platform is less taxing on their processors and batteries than other means of accessing Wi-Fi, setting it apart from other offload solutions on the market.

"Part of the beauty of what we're doing from the user's standpoint is relieving the burden on the handset, while maintaining a standard interface with operator's back-end systems, which previously required a client on the handset," Williams says.

The gateway is located between the Wi-Fi connection on the transport network and the core network, removing the need to pre-provision traffic routing mechanisms and putting the routing in control of the operator.

Stoke says the technology works by using capabilities already deployed in smartphones and WLAN infrastructure, including Extensible Authentication Protocol, a common feature in mobile operating systems.

The gateway also preserves 3GPP IWLAN standards. Stoke says this boosts the security of Wi-Fi connections, integrates Wi-Fi users with operators' back-end billing systems, smooths authentication and authorization and maintains the quality of service subscribers expect.

Customer trials of the gateway are set to begin next month, with commercial availability slated for the third quarter.

The new product will make its formal debut on Feb. 13. Stoke plans to conduct demonstrations of the gateway at Mobile World Congress later this month.

Stoke is a relative newcomer to the infrastructure scene compared to entrenched industry heavyweights like Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson. It hasn't announced any customers for its latest product but Williams says it's been well received in discussions with operators.

"After explaining what we enable them to maintain... there's a lot of head nodding," he says.

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