Carriers are desperate to offload data from their cellular networks onto Wi-Fi. But subscribers often don’t help. Read how a Vancouver company has come up with an answer

B.C. firm

 Wi-Fi isn’t only of use to enterprises wanting to save on cabling costs. Wireless operators are eager to use the technology to take the increasing data load off their cellular networks.

However many users of smart phones turn off their Wi-Fi reception to prolong battery life and to avoid annoying ‘Do you want to join this network?’ messages from hotspots.

Intrinsyc Software International, a Vancouver company that specializes in mobile solutions has teamed with Ubiquisys Ltd., a British manufacturer of small cellular base stations with what it says is an answer: Send the handset a wake-up call when it comes within range of an authorized access point.

In fact, it’s called Small Cell Wi-Fi Wake-Up.

“It’s a simple idea,” Andrew Hurdle, Intrinsyc’s business development director, said in an interview Wednesday after the solution was announced.

But it’s interesting enough that within hours of a news release being issued several cellular operators had called for more information. Several demonstrations with Tier 1 operators have been set up at next week’s annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, he said.

Intrinsyc’s role was to write the client software that sits on handsets enabling the transition. Ubiquisys has the small range cell (also called a femtocell) with intelligence and Wi-Fi to manage the handoff.

When the handset’s Wi-Fi is turned on, data traffic switches to it from the cellular network. When the handset goes out of reach of the femotcell it’s Wi-Fi switches off and the signal is transferred back to the cellular network.

With data use by subscribers soaring, a number of carriers around the world are looking to supplant their networks with femotcells and Wi-Fi hotspots to ease congestion. That’s one reason why Ottawa’s BelAir Networks, a maker of carrier Wi-Fi solutions including a small cell base station, was bought this week by LM Ericsson.The Intrinsyc/Ubiquisys solution is designed to work with local area networks that use the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0 technology, which manages policy-based Wi-Fi authentication and handoff.

So far Intrinsyc [TSX: ICS] has created a client for Android handsets. Work is being done to create BlackBerry and Windows Phone versions, Hurdle said. He didn’t know the status of a client for Apple’s iPhone.

Intrinsyc and Ubiquisys would be paid in one of two ways, he said: Either carriers would pay for the solution, and be responsible for uploading the client to subscribers’ handsets, or handset makers would buy the software and install it on the phones.

Pricing hasn’t been set yet.

The first operator trial is expected soon.

Intrinsyc designs and develops a wide range of software and hardware solutions for mobile manufacturers, everything from a wireless metering module for smart meters to a radio interface layer for operating systems connecting devices to telephony applications.

Wi-Fi Wake-Up takes advantage of that radio interface layer, Hurdle said.

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