There is a growing realisation that Wi-Fi and other IP networks can be a useful supplement to the cellular RAN when it comes to mobile voice and SMS. This is partly down to coverage issues, where a customer-funded Wi-Fi solution is cheaper and easier to manage than upgrading or adding to the cellular RAN. It is also down to commercial issues, as customers start to demand access to cellular services over Wi-Fi regardless of their location or roaming status.
In addition to the cellular network owner, there is potential benefit to the MVNO in being able to route a certain percentage of traffic away from the host network. The extent to which this can be achieved depends on the level of support offered by the host operator, though some traffic re-routing can always be achieved.
In recent years, the focus for cellular offload was to reduce the strain being placed on the macro cellular network by heavy data usage, most notably of video traffic. Because data services offered a lower margin and were on an upwards trajectory, carriers have been less nervous of using Wi-Fi for data than of using it for voice and SMS. However, operator reliance on voice and SMS is falling and carriers recognise that these services are gravitating quickly towards an all-IP, all-you-can-eat future.
The re-routing of cellular traffic over Wi-Fi brings Cicero back to its original vision, where traffic that would otherwise route over cellular is routed over unlicensed spectrum instead. This is true FMC, where voice and messaging services are seamlessly delivered over a combination of fixed and mobile access networks.
Cicero Solution for Cellular Offload
The Cicero solution for cellular offload starts from the CiceroInfra client, which controls the routing of traffic over a combination of licensed and unlicensed bearers. Routing decisions are made in the handset, informed both by provisionable settings and by network availability and conditions.
With CiceroInfra, the user can be completely shielded from the converged experience, with messages and voice minutes being routed over licensed or unlicensed spectrum without their intervention. The user interacts with the phone in the normal fashion for both MO and MT traffic and the carrier can choose to bill or not bill for that traffic according to its service preference.
The other components required, both Cicero and non-Cicero include:
- IMS platform, with interfaces to the 2G/3G MSC for service conformance continuity
- PSTN gateway, with the capability to present MO calls as coming from the cellular identity
- SMS gateway, supporting 3GPP or 3GPP2 SMS over IP specifications
- CiceroController, for Voice Call Continuity between network domains
- CiceroCMS, for provisioning and control of the CiceroInfra client instances
- Cicero Professional Services, for assistance with integration into the operator domain
It may be that some components are not needed for the initial deployment. In addition, Cicero Networks is very willing to interface with non-Cicero components in the areas covered by its server products. Offload of cellular voice and SMS is a complex area and Cicero Networks has unrivalled experience in assisting operators with initiatives in this area.