Over at Alcatel-Lucent, they're feeling the love for Wi-Fi, which might not have been the case some years back. In fact, a decade ago, Alcatel-Lucent's customers were more likely to express displeasure about the unlicensed technology rather than gratification.
But times have changed. Mobile operators are now embracing Wi-Fi as a data offload mechanism – an estimated 40 percent of hotspots are now owned by mobile operators and that number is growing – and Alcatel-Lucent wants to make it easier for smartphones and tablets to switch automatically from a cellular service to residential or public Wi-Fi networks and hotspots.
With the launch of lightRadio Wi-Fi, the company also is rolling out a lightRadio ecosystem program with Wi-Fi access point (AP) industry leaders. Aerohive, Arris, Aruba Networks, BelAir Networks, Meraki and Ubee are among the companies that have signed on.
Gary Leonard, director of Product Marketing at Alcatel-Lucent, acknowledges that customers years ago perceived Wi-Fi as a direct threat to their services. The technology remains unlicensed and still has its limits, but it has undergone dramatic improvements over the years as well, he adds. In fact, in his slide presentation, the first one is titled "Everyone Loves Wi-Fi." If anything, Wi-Fi is moving upstream.
Alcatel-Lucent added new software called the Automatic Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) to its policy manager, the 5780 Dynamic Services Controller. That allows the automatic selection of the "best" network connection based on criteria such as service type, subscription type and network congestion levels.
Alcatel-Lucent didn't announce any specific customers today, but besides mobile operators, it's applicable to fixed telecom and cable operators as well. Demonstrations will be held at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month.
The company also is working with Broadcom, Qualcomm and Motorola on the lightRadio ecosystem.