CommScope Definitions: What is Wi-Fi roaming? Part 2

MattMelester_160x160 Matt Melester November 3, 2020

wifi-business-featured-imageThis blog post is part of a series called “CommScope Definitions” in which we will explain common terms in communications networks infrastructure.

As a recap, the first part of this series highlighted the three options for Wi-Fi roaming including OpenRoaming (now with WBA), Orion Wifi by Google and Air Pass by Aruba.

CommScope is a proponent of both OpenRoaming and the Orion platforms.  We participate in the WBA working meetings for OpenRoaming and have partnered with Google’s Area 120 on the Orion WiFi launch.  We are excited about the potential these platforms have for the Wi-Fi industry and our customers.  The ability to roam transparently to/from Wi-Fi networks providing cellular-like user experience will be transformative.  Just consider traveling for business.  The ability to seamlessly roam from an airport to a hotel to a coffee shop without entering a single network credential.  A step further would be devices and operators using cellular and Wi-Fi together, choosing which applications should go over cellular and which ones over Wi-Fi, or even load-sharing over both. As a side note, none of this would be possible with Air Pass unless every single network used Aruba access points.

The benefit to carpeted enterprises is less pronounced as employee connectivity is normally handled through policies loaded to the device or a passcode only entered once by an employee, but still potentially useful.  It would solve the issue of having to write Guest login details in the top corner of the whiteboard in each meeting room.  If it could solve the issue of having to update passwords on my laptop and phone every three months, then count me in for sure. 

CLICK TO TWEET: CommScope's Matt Melester explains how the company is a proponent of Cisco's OpenRoaming and Google's Orion platforms and the potential these platforms will have on the Wi-Fi industry and our customers.

And then there is the holy grail, making and receiving phone calls in offices where cellular coverage is lacking.  That is where there are still challenges to be solved.  From Wi-Fi companies, I read and hear how flawlessly Wi-Fi calling works.  When I read the marketing to distributed antenna and small cell vendors who do not offer Wi-Fi, they speak inconsistent Wi-Fi calling experiences.  The fact is they are both correct.  Voice over Wi-Fi can work well in a properly designed network.  However, the single greatest benefit of Wi-Fi is its simple to deploy with a limited skill set required but sometimes that results in inadequate performance needed to provide highly reliable Wi-Fi calling. 

In recent years, Wi-Fi has evolved from best effort to providing ubiquitous coverage.  However, there are still many variables such as high and variable latencies, inconsistent and unpredictable mobility between access points, noisy devices, inability to handoff to cellular networks, that still present challenges to match cellular performance.  The challenge of offloading voice or data onto a third-party Wi-Fi network is how to guarantee a minimum quality or service, particularly since this is not the original objective of most enterprise Wi-Fi networks. Both OpenRoaming and Orion WiFi recognize this challenge and are addressing this through service level agreements and network scores.  It will be interesting to see if there is enough monetary incentive for most enterprises to accept such an obligation anytime soon.

At CommScope we offer distributed antenna systems (ERA), indoor small cell (ONECELL), and Wi-Fi (RUCKUS) equipment.   While admittedly there is some overlap for some use cases, we see these technologies as complimentary.  Our goal is to educate customers on the capabilities, benefits and limitation of each technology to best match the right approach for their specific needs.  We applaud both Cisco and Google for their willingness to promote an open platform for the good of the entire Wi-Fi industry.

OpenRoaming

About the Author

MattMelester_160x160

Matt Melester

Matt Melester is senior vice president office of the CTO at CommScope. He and his team are responsible for the technology strategy for CommScope’s Outdoor Wireless Networks and Venue and Campus Networks segments for use in service provider and business enterprise networks around the world. Prior to his role in the CTO office, Matt led the Distributed Coverage and Capacity Solutions team that focused on distributed antenna systems and in-building small cell solutions, including successfully enhancing wireless coverage and capacity at numerous high-profile locations and events. Matt has over 35 years of experience in the telecommunications industry at CommScope, Andrew Corporation, Chrysler Technologies Airborne Systems and Texas Instruments. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky.