Mobile Data Offload: A Paradigm Shift in Mobile Networks


Scott Phillips

Scott Phillips

This guest post is authored by Scott Phillips, Boingo’s Vice President of Airports.

Just a few months ago, in April 2015, Boingo announced the industry’s first major cellular carrier offload agreement with Sprint. Our strategic partnership enables the tier one carrier to seamlessly offload cellular traffic from up to 40 million Sprint handsets onto Boingo’s Wi-Fi networks at designated locations, starting at 35 U.S. airports.

A breakthrough event in wireless, this technology is not limited to the cellular market. In fact, late last year, you may have heard that Boingo launched Passpoint roaming integration with Time Warner Cable. The “big picture” of mobile data offload allows virtually any device with a Wi-Fi connection and the enabling built-in technology to automatically, seamlessly and securely connect to a Boingo Wi-Fi network.

From a consumer standpoint, this will allow for a sea change in Wi-Fi usage. Historically, users had to work their way through a sometimes cumbersome process to connect to Wi-Fi. Both mobile data offload and Passpoint will transform the wireless experience, so the moment passengers enter airports, their devices connect to the network and they’re online!

Skyrocketing Mobile Data Traffic: No End in Sight
As consumers grow increasingly dependent on their connected mobile lives–and the Internet of Things (IoT) creates new bandwidth-hungry applications and devices–mobile data consumption will reach new heights. Global mobile data is projected to increase nearly 10x between 2014 and 2019, and nearly three-quarters of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2019 (Cisco). To address this insatiable demand for mobile data, mobile network operators are turning to solutions like Wi-Fi offload to deliver the best mobile experience possible while reducing strain on their networks.

Wi-Fi Offload: Key Strategy to Alleviate Network Congestion
By seamlessly migrating, or offloading, cellular data traffic to Wi-Fi, network operators can strategically add capacity in high-traffic venues (e.g. airports) and extend in-building coverage in areas where cellular signals can be unreliable. As carriers introduce new services like voice over Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi calling)–and consumers demand ubiquitous, seamless connectivity–reliable Wi-Fi networks grow increasingly important to the overall mobile customer experience.

The Convergence of Cellular and Wi-Fi
The wireless industry has recognized Wi-Fi as an integral, effective and economical method to satisfy growing user demand for mobile data, leading to a paradigm shift in network planning. With offload, the mobile device selects the best network available, and the subscriber is automatically authenticated and connected.

The Promise of Offload is Here
Analysts forecast that Wi-Fi networks will carry up to 60% of smartphone and tablet data traffic by 2019, and North America and Western Europe will account for more than half of the global mobile data being offloaded in 2019 (Juniper).

At Boingo, we’ve been working toward this milestone of seamless Wi-Fi offload for years and believe our partnerships with Sprint and Time Warner are just the beginning of what we hope will become a standard solution for providing the best connected customer experience, period.

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