Enhancing macro radio access network capacity by offloading mobile video traffic will be essential for mobile communications industry to reduce its units costs to match its customer expectations. Two primary paths to achieve this are the use of femtocells and WiFi offloading. Deployment of large scale femtocells for coverage enhancement has been a limited success so far. Using them for capacity enhancements is a new proposition for mobile operators. They need to assess the necessity of using them as well as decide how to deploy them selectively for their heavy users.
Three alternative architectures that are being standardized by 3GPP have various advantages and shortcomings. They are quite distinct in terms of their dependencies and feasibility. Following table is a summary of comparison among these three approaches for traffic offloading.
Looking at the relative strengths of the existing traffic offload proposals, it is difficult to pick an outright winner. SIPTO macro-network option is the most straight-forward and most likely to be implemented rather quickly. However, it doesn't solve the fundamental capacity crunch in the radio access network. Therefore its value is limited to being an optimization of the packet core/transport network. Some other tangible benefits would be reduction in latency to increase effective throughput for customers as well as easier capacity planning since transport facilities don't need to be dimensioned for large number of radio access network elements anymore.
LIPA provides a limited benefit of allowing access to local premises networks without having to traverse through the mobile operator core. Considering it is dependent on the implementation of femtocell, this benefit looks rather small and has no impact on the macro radio network capacity. If LIPA is extended to access to Internet and Intranet, then the additional offload benefit would be on the mobile operator core network similar to the SIPTO macro-network proposal. Femtocell solves the macro radio network capacity crunch. However, the pace of femtocell deployments so far doesn't show a significant momentum. LIPA's market success will be limited until cost of femtocell ownership issues are resolved and mobile operators decide why (coverage or capacity) to deploy femtocells.
IFOM is based upon a newer generation of Mobile IP that has been around as a mobile VPN technology for more than 10 years. Unfortunately success record of mobile IP so far has been limited to enterprise applications. It hasn't become a true consumer-grade technology. Introduction of LTE may change this since many operators spearheading LTE deployments are planning to use IPv6 in handsets and adopt a dual-stack approach of having both IPv4 and IPv6 capability. Since many WiFi access networks will stay as IPv4, DSMIPv6 will be the best tunneling mechanism to hide IPv6 from the access network. Having dual-stack capability will allow native access to both legacy IPv4 content and native IPv6 content from major companies such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. without the hindrance of Network Address Translation (NAT). Considering the popularity of smartphones such as iPhone, Blackberry and various Android phones, they will be the proving ground for the feasibility of DSMIPv6.
Unlike LIPA or SIPTO that are dependent on upstream network nodes to provide the optimization of routing different types of traffic, IFOM relies on the handset to achieve this functionality. It explicitly calls for the use of simultaneous connections to both macro network, e.g., LTE, UMTS and WiFi. Therefore, IFOM, unlike LIPA and SIPTO, is truly a release 10-onward only technology and it is not applicable for user terminals pre-Release 10. IFOM is being specified via 3GPP TS 23.261 . Following diagram shows the interconnectivity model for IFOM capable UE.
IFOM uses an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Request For Comments (RFC), Dual Stack Mobile IPv6 (DSMIPv6) (RFC-5555) .
Since IFOM is based on DSMIPv6, it is independent of the macro network flavor. It can be used for a green-field LTE deployment as well as a legacy GPRS packet core.
Earlier on we looked at the mobile network industry attempts of integration between packet core and WLAN networks. Common characteristic of those efforts was the limitation of the UE, its ability to use one radio interface at a time. Therefore, in earlier interworking scenarios UE was forced to use/select one radio network and make a selection to move to an alternative radio for all its traffic. Today many smartphones, data cards with connection managers already have this capability, i.e., when the UE detects the presence of an alternative access network such as a home WiFi AP, it terminates the radio bearers on the macro network and initiates a WiFi connection. Since WiFi access network and packet core integration is not commonly implemented, user typically loses her active data session and re-establishes another one.
Similarly access to some operator provided services may not be achieved over WiFi. Considering this limitation both iPhone IOS and Android enabled smartphones to have simultaneous radio access but limited this functionality to sending MMS over the macro network while being connected to WiFi only.
IFOM provides simultaneous attachment to two alternate access networks. This allows fine granularity of IP Flow mobility between access networks. Using IFOM, it will be possible to select particular flows per UE and bind them to one of two different tunnels between the UE and the DSMIPv6 Home Agent (HA) that can be implemented within a P-GW or GGSN. DSMIPv6 requires a dual-stack (IPv4 or IPv6) capable UE. It is independent of the access network that can be IPv4 or IPv6.
 3GPP TS 23.261: IP flow mobility and seamless Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) offload; Stage 2
 RFC-5555: Mobile IPv6 Support for Dual Stack Hosts and Routers
 3GPP TS 23.327: Mobility between 3GPP-Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) interworking and 3GPP systems