Seamless Handover from 4G/5G – maximising mobile data offload to home Wi-Fi

  • Analysis

More and more ISPs, mainly cable operators,  became MVNOs to develop multiplay bundles including of course a mobile component to compete against the convergent offers from traditional MNOs.  With the rise of mobile data consumption and the array of all-you-can-eat bundles, offering an attractive mobile Internet pack while controlling data wholesale costs can be difficult. Offloading costly mobile traffic to reduce wholesale costs has become a business imperative to protect  margins. These ISPs will be called MVNO-ISPs in this blog post. 

In homes connected to high-speed broadband provided by MVNO-ISPs, mobile users are prone to connect to their home WiFi router, a cheaper and better connectivity option, and therefore offload cellular traffic onto fixed networks. But in some cases users manually switch from Wi-Fi to cellular to get better connectivity and may decide to disable Wi-Fi access on their handset, making any future offload less likely.

In this article we will analyse why smartphone users prefer to connect to cellular networks at home and how Multipath TCP, a TCP extension, could avoid the disabling of Wi-Fi.  Hence, MVNO-ISPs could benefit from more cellular traffic offloading onto home Wi-Fi, while delivering a best-in-class mobile Internet experience. 


Home, the primary location for smartphone activities

With the massive adoption of smartphones in almost all countries, nearly every household has more than 1 device. As shown in figure 1, smartphones have become more and more popular and in 2014 were the second most used electronic device in UK homes behind the TV .

Fig. 1- Electronic products and devices used every day in households in the UK in 20141

In the meantime, 4G network worldwide coverage continues to expand and reach more and more remote areas. For instance, the average 4G coverage within the EU 282 reached 99% in 2018, allowing almost every household to connect to fast mobile Internet services. 

Therefore, in a house with high-speed broadband access, a smartphone user may either select their home Wi-Fi network or the 4G network. Mostly, the handset is connected to Wi-Fi, but MVNO-ISPs would like this offloading to WiFi to be even higher.


The Wi-Fi range limitation, a trigger to switch to cellular mode 

In the “connected home survey” published in Feb. 2017 by Ovum, 1000 households across Spain, the Netherlands & Sweden were surveyed3

Fig. 2- Survey results – How often respondents encounter typical Wi-Fi issues at home 

As shown in figure 2 above, ~10% of respondents experienced Wi-Fi network connection issues ‘very often’, caused by range gaps or unforseen device disconnections. Smartphone users connected to Wi-Fi who suffer poor connectivity may decide to disable Wi-Fi manually and use the cellular network instead, thus causing missed offload opportunities for MVNO-ISPs.


How seamless handover between networks fosters Wi-Fi stickiness

Switching seamlessly from one network to another can be achieved using Multipath TCP (MPTCP), a standardised TCP extension, which enables data packets to be sent / received over two access networks simultaneously.  Apple, Samsung and Korea Telecom4 already use MPTCP to either boost mobile Internet speeds (through network bonding) or deliver seamless handovers between cellular and Wi-Fi networks. More detail on these use case examples is available in another blog post related to Wi-Fi offload. 

When MPTCP is enabled, handsets can connect to Wi-Fi and cellular at the same time and exchange data over both paths. The use case shown in the table below explains how MPTCP could help MVNO-ISPs. We took the example of a smartphone user who listens to live streaming radio at home and we compare for each step of the customer journey (1) the user experience and (2) the Wi-Fi offload opportunity. We can clearly see the MPTCP benefits for both areas.

A similar scenario involving mobile business activities instead of live radio streaming could also occur in large offices.

The next blog post will focus on mobile offload onto out-of-home Wi-Fi hotspots, adding an opportunity for MVNO-ISPs to save further costs and deliver a superior wireless user experience outside the home or office.

If you would like to assess what tessares MPTCP solutions can do to support your business or if you are just curious about this technology, feel free to contact us at


(1) – Chart from Statista
(2) – DESI Connectivity report – Broadband market development in the EU – Page 11
(3) – 0vum report – Figure 15
(4) – KT & Tessares press release

  • Share

Leave a comment

We'd love to hear from you! Your comment(s) will appear instantly on the live site. Spam, promotional and derogatory comments will be removed and HTML formatting will not appear.