As many operators of public Wi-Fi hotspot networks strive to emulate “carrier” network features, you might sense a bit of incongruity. Historically, carrier and Internet networks had different strategic imperatives.
Carrier networks were supposed to provide “high quality” service, typically quantified in terms of service availability (99.999 percent available over a year’s time) and audio quality (MOS scores for voice).
The Internet was optimized for robustness more than quality; the ability to survive failure.
These days, some Wi-Fi network operators are striving to achieve more “carrier-like” attributes, such as seamless registration to the network, seamless session support between one cell and the next and at least some measure of application quality and continuity across the network.
That shift in thinking is driven by desires to create new business models based on carrier grade network support for Internet of Things apps offered by enterprises, for example, as well as mobile services.
“As mobile and Wi-Fi services continue to overlap and converge, the integration of mobile and Wi-Fi networks, such as that used for 3G to Wi-Fi network handoff, will continue to become increasingly prevalent and more complex,” says CableLabs. “As Wi-Fi networks are used for faster and more robust data, video, and voice services, maintaining a quality-user experience is becoming increasingly important.”
That is not to say all supporters of public Wi-Fi have the same concerns, or the same degree of concern. App providers arguably are less concerned, providers of mobile services more concerned.
Still, "quality of service" concerns increasingly are raised within the context of a "best effort" access network historically more concerned with robustness to failure than seamless and assured levels of user experience.