WINLAB Vision | Mobile Internet | Education | Resources

As Internet-connected mobile devices will soon outnumber fixed PCs, a convergence of business models and technical standards associated with cellular networks and the Internet may be expected over the next decade.  This process has already started, with cellular standards embracing the concept of “flat” IP-based networks without centralized gateways. In 4G/LTE, the cellular access network architecture has been significantly flattened with only a single specialized MME (mobility management entity) in the control path and SGW (service gateway) in the data path, and with commodity routers everywhere else in the network.  The 3GPP architecture uses IETF protocols such as Mobile IP for wide-area mobility management, supplemented by micro-mobility, authentication and other services provided by the cellular MME. 

In our view, the next logical step in this direction is a completely flat mobile network architecture with native support for basic services such as authentication, dynamic association and handover, inter-network roaming, and disconnection tolerance.  As shown in the figure below, all routers, base stations and access points in the network would run the same future IP protocol stack, and clients would have a single identifier and uniform service APIs, making it possible to simply “plug in” wireless access technologies such as GSM, 3G/CDMA, LTE, WiMAX or Wi-Fi without requiring gateways.  Such a uniform “mobile Internet” protocol solution across wired and wireless network technologies will eventually lead to convergence of cellular and Internet standards as both industries are serving the same mobile end-users.  Beyond mobile data, any new protocol architecture must also support the requirements of emerging machine-to-machine (M2M) communications between embedded sensors, vehicular networks, and Internet-of-Things devices, which are expected to grow significantly over the next decade.





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