AT&T is one of seven service providers deploying or trialling Cisco's integrated WiFi, 2G, 3G, and LTE small cell platform, the equipment vendor revealed on Tuesday.
The company's small cell solution is comprised of a Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA)-certified Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) supported by a small cell gateway. Combined they can aggregate and seamlessly switch between 2G, 3G, LTE, and WiFi air interfaces and give the user a continuous experience while allowing the operator to take the strain off their cellular access network.
"[The solution will] make that transaction without you ever noticing. It's the brains and control point," Murali Nemani, senior director of mobility solutions, told Total Telecom on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress prior to the announcement.
The technology is able to ensure that online services such as video streaming are uninterrupted at the application level, despite there being separate IP addresses for cellular and WiFi networks. The customer will not need to reload the application when the traffic is handed over.
Nemani also explained the inherent problems with cellular networks and how WiFi can be used to alleviate the congestion.
"The two immediate problems are coverage and capacity," he said. However, by offloading data traffic onto WiFi, operators can not only address these issues, but open up new revenue streams by providing retailers with specific location-based information.
Using triangulation from at least three WiFi hotspots, Cisco can pinpoint a customer within an accuracy of five feet. In contrast, Nemani explained that visibility over cellular networks once indoors is severely reduced, and only capable of locating a device within 50 feet.
With more accurate information available, operators can offer services to retailers to help provide targeted advertisements and promotions, he said. It can inform a shopkeeper how many customers entered the store, when they arrived and left, and their exact route through the store.
BT in the U.K is trialling elements of Cisco's small cell technology; other customers that are testing or plan to use parts of the solution include Hong Kong's PCCW, Canada's Shaw Communications, Portugal Telecom, Smart in the Philippines, and Thailand's TrueMove H.