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Mobile Application for Hybrid Internet

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MPA (Mobile Application for Hybrid Internet)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-04-30

The phenomenal growth of smartphone traffic is not going to slow down anytime soon.
Both cellular and Wi-Fi networks are needed to support this growth, while the introduction of 5G will not change the operator’s desire to “maximise Wi-Fi offload”; however until now offload has often come at the cost of poor user experience, hence the growing interest in seamless handover between Wi-Fi and cellular (4G/5G) access networks.
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Mobile Network Virtual Operators (MVNOs) have deployed, or partnered with, Wi-Fi networks in order to offload traffic from their cellular networks. However, currently the offload user experience is not seamless. Offloading started with separate Wi-Fi and cellular networks (users needed to authenticate to the Wi-Fi hotspot in order to offload cellular traffic) and, more recently, was upgraded to automatic connections (users automatically connect to Wi-Fi hotspots through their cellular credentials with Hotspot 2.0 or similar technologies). Many times, however, users were automatically connected to poor performing network connections and the transition between the two networks was not seamless.
The telecom ecosystem is on a well articulated trajectory towards greater convergence:
• Consumers are more and more keen to purchase all their telecom services from the same Communications Service Provider - CSP (one-stop shop) who in return enjoys higher loyalty (the greater the number of services, the lower the churn);
• Network convergence: while the variety of access technologies continues to widen with the rollout of 5G, WiFi6, Fiber or CBRS, CSPs are eager to control all these access technologies from a single and convergent core network;
• Mature WiFi roaming technologies allow for Partner Networks to be added to a carrier’s offering;
• When combined, these trends will offer an enhanced experience to data-hungry smartphone users who will seamlessly transition from one network to another.
MPA is an end-to-end software solution that will allow smartphones to connect simultaneously and seamlessly to both cellular and Wi-Fi networks. In order to maximise the adoption of this solution, MPA relies on the following principles:
• It must provide true network aggregation, i.e. both networks can be used at the same time for the same application. Example: a Netflix video stream is split and a part of the data is carried over the cellular network while the rest is carried over the Wi-Fi network, and this is completely transparent to the end-user;
• It must be compatible with Apple iOS and Google Android, the two dominant operating systems of smartphones;
It must rely on standardised technology. Indeed, in the telecom ecosystem, standardised approaches are favoured on the proprietary implementation
Around mid 2020, the standardization bodies (namely 3GPP and IETF) and frozen the underlying specifications of the solution:
• 3GPP Release 16 (frozen in June 2020) introduces a new capability called ATSSS (Access Traffic Steering, Switching and Splitting) which delivers Wi-Fi cellular convergence;
• IETF RFC 8803 (released in July 2020) defines a new protocol (0-RTT TCP Convert Protocol) and used by ATSSS.
The publication of these two standards was a stepping stone for the MPA solution.
During the first year of the project (from May 2020 to May 2021), the first software version of the MPA solution has been developed and now several pilot phases are on-going with several operators in North America and in Europe.
While the demand for more mobile data continues to growth, there are also several challenges to address: availability of spectrum, electrical consumption, etc.
By seamlessly combining Wi-Fi and cellular accesses, MPA helps making a better use of the radio assets, which will lead to a better use of scarce resources.
MPA end-to-end software solution