France Telecom get strategic about mobile offloading

The French telco has this week said that WiFi offload is the right approach to dealing with mobile data traffic.

Speaking at Broadband World Forum on Wednesday, Alain Maloberti, senior vice president of network for France Telecom emphasised the importance of using WiFi to offload traffic from its mobile network, based on its existing network of WiFi access points, but warned that there are still challenges to be overcome.

“We have a real opportunity to offload onto WiFi a part of the traffic and leveraging what exists, not rolling out a whole new network based on WiFi, which would be as costly as rolling out a mobile network,” he said. He added tha Orange has 7 million DSL boxes with WiFi and 40,000 public WiFi hotspots in service in France and that its mobile customers will access WiFi hotspots if the process is simplified.

Currently, smartphone users can experience difficulties in accessing such services as they need to input a password to enable usage. Maloberti wants to see a "seamless authentication procedures,” as well as strong authentication with regards to security in keeping with its competitors - an area that is gaining in importance thanks to the advent of mobile services such as TV.

The company now plans to incorporate IP Sec into devices if it is not too complex to do so, or find another way around the problem, Maloberti said.

However, challenges still remain for the telco with regards to spectrum bands as many smartphones are capable of using WiFi in the 2.4-GHz band but with Orange operating on a 5-GHz band which could potentially handle 75% of its WiFi requirements, a paltry one percent of smartphones use it.

In conclusion, Maloberti said that operators must look carefully at their backhaul and do local break-out of traffic that does not need to be on the mobile core. “Some offload is already happening. What we have to do is do more of it," he concluded.

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