Using Wi-Fi Hot Zones to Cover Outdoor Areas

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Another way that carriers are starting to use Wi-Fi is for offloading data traffic from
cellular networks in outside areas as well as within buildings. They do this by deploying multiple access points in congested areas such as Times Square in New York City.
These Wi-Fi areas are referred to as Wi-Fi hot zones. The hot zone in Times Square
was built by AT&T, which is building hot zones in other areas, as well. Carriers such as
PCCW Ltd in Hong Kong, and China Telecom are also constructing Wi-Fi hot zones.
A hot zone consists of multiple access points that have the capability to hand traffic
off to other access points and to cellular networks as people move out of the Wi-Fi
coverage area.
The downside of this strategy is that older phones do not automatically switch
between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. In addition, Wi-Fi service drains handset batteries
more quickly than cellular service. Wi-Fi hot zone strategies are attractive to
carriers whose amount of spectrum cannot keep up with heavy data demands in metropolitan
areas. They are additionally attractive for carriers that have not upgraded to
LTE, and carriers such as AT&T, which has expertise in managing and implementing
hot zones. Another strategy for hot zone maintenance is to use the vendor organization
that built the hot zones to manage them.
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