Sizing up VoWiFi and Small Cells

At Radisys, we’ve been talking a lot lately about mobile operators’ deployments of interactive services and applications  such as VoLTE, VoWiFi, WebRTC and more to generate new revenues. Our MediaEngine™ portfolio supports these  services with real-time media processing capabilities.

 But I work in the CellEngine™ group and one of the question that I’d like to address is “Will VoWiFi Kill Small Cells?” I’m  here to tell you the answer is a resounding no. Both VoWiFi and Small Cells will continue to play a critical role in mobile  operators’ network strategies as they seek to augment their networks for coverage and capacity.

 VoWiFi – or Voice over Wi-Fi – will take on its role in the network similar to what we have seen with Wi-Fi offloading. However, all of the same concerns that we have with Wi-Fi will also be seen in a VoWiFi environment. These concerns include QoS, security, coverage, and most importantly, the stability/reliability of the connection. To put it in perspective, think about an airport terminal with a free Wi-Fi hotspot. In this scenario, there’s a lot of people trying to tap into that Wi-Fi network, resulting in slow loading of pages, buffering videos and dropped connections. While travelers may put up with this when accessing data, it will be unacceptable when it comes to a final call home before boarding that plane.

A Home for VoWiFi

While Quality of Service (QoS) is a real issue, VoWiFi does have a home in the network. I believe that the uses cases where we will see VoWiFi take off is actually in the home, where subscribers have a dedicated Wi-Fi connection and a limited number of family members accessing the bandwidth.

Small Cells Rule When QoS Matters

While VoWiFi provides mobile operators with a cost-effective approach to extend their coverage and capacity and deliver a new service to their subscribers, small cells remain critical to mobile operators’ LTE network strategy. In contrast to VoWiFi, VoLTE is delivering voice over an LTE network, thereby allowing the user to maintain a connection even as they become mobile. Go out of range of your Wi-Fi hotspot and your connection drops. Go out of range of your basestation and the LTE network – with the help of small cells to augment coverage – will seamlessly hand-off the connection to the next tower.

Small Cells are Here to Stay

We believe that VoWiFi and small cells will co-exist in mobile operators’ networks and each holds a role in their overall network strategy. Mobile operators that have less LTE spectrum might turn to VoWiFi to build out their coverage. There will be use cases where Wi-Fi connectivity is enough and other scenarios where the QoS requirements will demand an LTE network. While VoWiFi offers mobile operators a low-cost opportunity for delivering voice services, small cells are here to stay.

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