Cisco Systems and Kineto Wireless are working together to make it easier for mobile phone operators to move from trialing services that let mobile phone customers roam between Wi-Fi and cellular networks to offering commercial services, the companies announced on Tuesday.
The companies have linked Kineto's controller, which lets mobile operators offer combined Wi-Fi and cellular services, with Cisco products that operators may already use, such as its authentication, authorization and accounting server.
Currently, Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), a specification used by Kineto and others that is designed to allow cellular operators to offer converged services, defines basic subscriber authentication. "But it doesn't provide for other information that an operator would want to have to turn this into a real service, like who can use the service, where they can use it and how they can pay," said Steve Shaw, director of marketing for Kineto.
Cisco and Kineto have linked their products so that Kineto's controller can gather information such as subscription details about the user as well as identifying information about Wi-Fi access points and cellular networks in range of the user and pass that information to a Cisco authentication server used by the operator. The Cisco server manages the service policy by validating the subscriber and the subscriber's service plan and determining whether the service should be enabled over the nearby Wi-Fi access point.
To date, operators are limited in how they authorize the service. Operators that are trialing UMA services simply make the service fully available to the approved trailers, Shaw said. In the case of British Telecommunications (BT) and its Fusion service, BT ties users to just one access point (AP), located in their homes, he said. "We're now providing flexibility so if an operator wants to limit the service to one AP they can but if they want to enable service across a range of APs in an enterprise they can or they can tie service to a specific country," he said.
As part of the announcement on Tuesday, the companies also said that they've tested the interoperability between Kineto's controller and Cisco's Enhanced UMA Security Gateway, a product that aims to protect against threats from UMA devices to the mobile operator's network.
Shaw said that because this agreement with Cisco makes it easier for operators to deploy commercial offerings, end users are one step closer to being able to start using the services. Enterprises are increasingly interested in such converged services because they can help reduce mobile phone costs by shifting mobile phone calls onto an enterprise Wi-Fi network, he said.
In addition to UMA, other vendors are developing products based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) for delivering converged Wi-Fi and cellular services. Some products could be deployed by an enterprise, rather than deployed and hosted by a cellular operator.