For 2013, they expect increased challenges for standard passwords, and the PC will remain a dominant device, as measured by usage rather than just units, while one fifth of businesses will support a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy that extends to personal computers.
Emerging technologies, such as Heterogeneous Networks or HetNets, have the potential to address some of these concerns. HetNets consist of a series of wireless access layers, protocols, and equipment allowing mobile devices to seamlessly move between wireless networks of various types.
Voice calls and data sessions can be maintained without interruption as devices move between macrocells (covering dozens of km), microcells (covering kms), picocells (100s of meters) and femtocells (tens of meters) and back. Emerging technologies and standards can extend HetNets across Wi‑Fi, Mesh and Ad‑Hoc wireless networks as well. As little as two years ago, this lack of portability was not a significant issue for most end users.
Mobile devices connected to the cellular network were typically used in such a way that virtually all traffic was managed by a traditional macrocell, usually located on a tower. The problem is that moving between these networks is sometimes not transparent to either the end user or the network provider.
Users may need to: manually identify and select a different network (either microcell or Wi‑Fi); provide necessary credentials to authenticate onto the new network; and re‑establish a session with the application. HetNet is based around more intelligent devices and networks that can monitor the current wireless environment for available networks and single quality and, when appropriate, automatically select, authenticate and hand over current sessions without user intervention. At this time, some of the technologies needed to deliver HetNet services have yet to be widely deployed. Further, HetNets require changes to the end user device, access points and the network core making adoption more complex and expensive.
Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is the successor to the widely used IPv4, which has “only” 4.2 billion unique addresses. Almost all of those are in use, requiring addresses to be re‑used. While that helps mitigate the shortage of addresses under IPv4, it means that new addresses must often be dynamically assigned, making it difficult to maintain existing session information and to determine exactly where devices are located. IPv6 has 1038 addresses (or enough to give every star in the known universe a trillion IP addresses) and will be able to give each device a unique identifier, and simplify the handover processes. VoLTE (Voice over LTE) is another set of technologies and standards that will enable HetNet by allowing voice traffic to be carried over 4G networks.
Today, most 4G networks use LTE for data and fall back to 2G and 3G networks for voice. This increases the complexity of moving calls between networks as there may be multiple voice and data sessions than need to be managed using very different methods and technologies. VoLTE handles voice calls as another data session (containing audio information) allowing much easier movement between networks. The standards behind HetNet have been under development for several years (the IEEE 802.21 working group was established in 2004). However, since HetNets span networks defined by multiple standards bodies (including IEEE, 3GPP, 3GPP2, ITU‑T and IETF) a number divergent attempts at standardizing network interoperability have occurred delaying widespread adoption.
Although current initiatives have begun to show progress (such as 802.11u) there is still much activity. The Wi‑Fi Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0 program255 began administering the Passpoint™ certification process in June 2012, which covers mobile devices and hotspots that automatically select and authenticate access to Wi‑Fi networks using a devices SIM card. At present, only a limited number of certified devices are available. In parallel, the Wireless Broadband Alliance, as part of its own Next Generation Hotspot initiative256, is working closely with the Wi‑Fi Alliance to validate certified devices in real world conditions.
Phase two trials with several global carriers began in Q4 of 2012257. It is expected that many carriers are waiting on the outcome of these trials before making significant investments in HetNet related infrastructure. While strong progress is being made towards making HetNet services a reality, it may take most of 2013 to resolve these challenges. Foundational technologies will continue to be rolled out, standards compliant equipment will become widely available and business concerns will be ironed out. Some markets will see the introduction of limited HetNet capabilities and limited pilots.
Additional acquisitions in the Wi‑Fi service provider and equipment market are likely as lagging carriers and manufacturers look to quickly build their footprint or expand their product offerings