With most operators deciding to back LTE over WiMAX, the LTE versus WiMAX debate is over. WiMAX will have its place in the industry, but will not be the global mass market technology that it was touted as. But what about WiFi?
Over the past year WiFi has been the operator’s new best friend. WiFi offload has been an important part of traffic management for operators such as ATandT and Telefonica. Both operators have city-dwelling iPhone users that have had less than satisfactory 3G experience. In a recent interview with Fierce Wireless CEO of Telekom Austria, said that the company was prepared for the continued growth in mobile data traffic, but suggested that pushing data onto Wi-Fi made sense and CEO of Softbank said in recent interview that mobile networks would not be able to cope without WiFi. In Japan 50% of data traffic happens inside the home during peak hours, which makes it ideal to harness WiFi technology. He did also add that "3G and LTE is the way to provide blanket coverage, but WiFi helps to provide a richer experience."
Thousands of devices have been WiFi enabled, as Blackberry and Apple have turned Mobile WiFi into a prime time mobile technology. Even though it is not a technology that is likely to have huge levels of coverage, WiFi is still fast becoming a mainstream mobile technology.
By cellular standards WiFi is a crude technology. With no power control, no frequency awareness, limited mobility, handover capability and range the QoE simply doesn't match that of 3G, but WiFi’s simplicity and low cost has led to mass deployment of the technology.
Although some operators seem happy to offload some of their traffic onto WiFi, will this still be the case with LTE? Both LTE and WiMAX positioned themselves as WiFi killers and surely with the amount of investment that is going into or will be going into LTE, there shouldn't be a need to offload traffic onto WiFi?
Vendors are however looking to provide dual mode LTE-WiFi devices. This confuses the LTE business model slightly as consumer will have to pay a premium in order to connect to the high speed, low latency (etc etc) LTE network, but could potentially be bumped off onto a cheap, lower quality WiFi network. It is a model that seems to work for 3G, but can it work for LTE?