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June 06, 2013

Software Aims to Maximize Cellular Offload to Home Wi-Fi

By Joan Engebretson, Contributing Editor

Readers may have seen various market research reports showing that a substantial amount of smartphone and tablet traffic is carried over Wi-Fi rather than cellular networks, and many researchers expect that percentage to increase moving forward as cellular network operators gear up Wi-Fi offload plans.

Although it hasn’t received as much attention, there’s another dynamic at play that could give Wi-Fi an additional boost.

About 30 percent of people who could use their smartphones with WiFi (News - Alert) at home don’t take advantage of that capability, according to mobile software developer Devicescape. The reasons for this are twofold. In some cases, users find the initialization process to enable that capability too complex. In other cases, users turn off their Wi-Fi capability.

“It’s a bigger problem than we expected it to be,” said Dave Fraser, Devicescape CEO, in an interview. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Devicescape aims to help people make better use of their home Wi-Fi with new smartphone software it calls Personal Curator.  Cellular network operators will pre-install the software on customers’ smarphones and, according to Devicescape, the software “prompts and leads the customer through the process of identifying their home network and establishing a connection that is then remembered by the device.” In addition the software automatically turns on the device’s Wi-Fi radio where home Wi-Fi has been detected and used in the past.

Some readers may recall that Devicescape also operates what the company calls a “curated” Wi-Fi network that simplifies the process of connecting to free public Wi-Fi hotspots and, based on hotspot performance data, connects end users to better performing hotspots.

As Fraser explained, the device software that Devicescape provides can support the home Wi-Fi capabilities and the public Wi-Fi capabilities. Network operators offering the software to their customers can enable either or both sets of capabilities.  The network operators will compensate Devicescape on a monthly basis depending on the number of active users.

Devicescape signed up about eight service providers last year and expects to announce more over the next few months, Fraser said.  Announced North American users include Cincinnati Bell, U.S. Cellular (News - Alert), Republic Wireless and MetroPCS. Fraser said T-Mobile’s purchase of MetroPCS won’t have much impact on Devicescape because the merged company views T-Mobile (News - Alert) and MetroPCS as two separate operations.

Not surprisingly, most of Devicescape’s announced customers are regional network operators who undoubtedly see the Devicescape public Wi-Fi capability as a means of minimizing roaming charges. But at least one major national carrier is also using Devicescape capability, albeit in a different configuration.

“Microsoft took our software and built a product called Data Sense that they sold to Verizon (News - Alert),” commented Fraser.  Verizon offers Data Sense as a means for customers to help manage their monthly bill, he said.

Fraser noted that Devicescape sees heavier use of its curated network toward the end of each month as customers are trying to manage their bill. Verizon customers can use Data Sense to alert them when they are nearing their data allotment and to shift traffic to the Devicescape network.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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