ROAMING CONSIDERATIONS FOR
THE FINNISH PUBLIC WLAN MARKET
Helsinki University of Technology
P.O. Box 3000 FIN-02015 HUT, FINLAND
Tel. +358-50-536 9855, Fax +358-9-451 2474
The increasing popularity and decreasing prices of
Abstract WLANs have motivated innovative people to find new
kinds of applications for the technology. Although
Wireless local area networks (WLANs) are becoming originally designed for extending or replacing
increasingly popular in offices, homes, and public traditional wired LANs, WLANs are currently used also
places. In public “hotspots” such as airports and hotels, to provide fixed broadband last-mile access to
these networks can be used to provide broadband households, and to offer broadband data services in
wireless connectivity for people on the move. In public places such as airports, hotels, and conference
Finland, hotspot networks are operated by TeliaSonera centers.
and DNA Finland.
Public WLANs are built to provide wireless
Because of interference issues, only one WLAN connectivity in places where there is demand for high-
network can usually be built in one hotspot site. This speed data services. The most lucrative places for public
leads to competition between the operators of the WLANs have been those where many people carrying
hotspot locations. Otherwise, the barriers for operators laptops have extra time to use the services. These so-
to enter the public WLAN market are sufficiently low. called hotspots include e.g. airports, hotels, conference
A number of different players are expected to enter the centers, and cafes. Accordingly, the target end-user
market, with different kinds of backgrounds. The group for the services has been mainly traveling
business models pursued by the players may vary businessmen and women.
WLANs operate on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz unlicensed
Roaming agreements can be used to enable subscribers frequency bands. Because of the unlicensed nature of
of one operator to access their services using networks the bands, the transmission power of the devices is
of other operators. A number of different roaming limited, resulting in limited range and coverage of
models exist, including bilateral agreement, WLAN cells. Thus, even a small hotspot place may
clearinghouse, and roaming broker models. By far, the require multiple access points for sufficient coverage. In
Finnish public WLAN operators have used bilateral adjacent cells, different frequency channels have to be
agreements to enable roaming with international used to avoid interference. A maximum of four non-
partners. National WLAN roaming is not available, interfering channels can be used in the 2.4 GHz band,
decreasing the service coverage of all operators and making it difficult or even impossible to build several
hindering the success of the whole public WLAN overlapping WLAN networks in one building or area. In
market. the 5 GHz bands the problem is less significant, as the
number of non-interfering channels is significantly
Key Words higher (between 8 and 18, depending on the region and
equipment). 5 GHz WLANs, however, are not very
WLAN, hotspot, roaming, value system widely used, and therefore not yet suitable for public
Because of the interference issues, hotspot site owners
Wireless local area networks (WLANs) are becoming are often reluctant to allow many operators to build
increasingly popular in offices, homes, and public WLAN networks in their premises. The operator that
places around the world. The success of the technology first builds a network to hotspot premises holds a strong
results largely from the emergence of the IEEE 802.11 position and is unlikely to be replaced to another
family of standards. Mass production of standardized operator very soon. As the number of WLAN operators
chipsets has lowered the prices of WLAN equipment to in a certain geographical region is likely to be higher
a level suitable for most consumers and enterprises. than one, problems occur. Operators cannot reach all the
Certification of interoperable products by the Wi-Fi potential customers, and customers cannot access their
Alliance has lowered the risk of customer lock-in to a services in all the WLANs in the area.
The solution to the problems is roaming. Roaming
means that subscribers of a certain operator are able to
access their services using networks of other operators. certain industry. For this purpose, Figure 1 shows a
Without roaming agreements, subscribers have to pay simplified public WLAN value system.
separately to different operators in different places they
are visiting, causing harm and decreasing the value of
the services. Network Roaming Service
operator intermediary operator
The aim of the paper is to introduce the business models
of different players in the public WLAN market, as well
as roaming models that could be used between the Figure 1: Public WLAN value system
players. These models are then contrasted to the current
situation among the Finnish WLAN operators. Three
operator cases are discussed in more detail, including The site owners own the rights to the locations where
Sonera HomeRun, DNA WLAN, and Vantaa Energy WLAN hotspots are deployed. Building a WLAN
Wivanet services. hotspot usually requires permission from a site owner.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In section The network operator installs, operates, and maintains
2, the main players in the public WLAN market are the required equipment in the hotspots, including e.g.
introduced and placed in a simple value system the WLAN access points, access controllers, switches,
framework. In section 3, the concept of WLAN roaming and cabling.
is discussed, and possible roaming models are
introduced and analyzed. In section 4, three WLAN The service operator owns the customers, and is
operator cases from Finland are introduced. Finally, responsible for marketing, customer care, and end-user
section 5 concludes the findings of the paper. billing.
2. Players in the public WLAN market Between the network and service operators, one or more
roaming intermediaries may exist. These intermediaries
The concept of public WLANs is wide, and could provide e.g. clearing and settlement of the revenue
include e.g. the following types of networks: shares between operators. Roaming is possible also
without any intermediaries by bilateral agreements
Commercial hotspots in public places such as between the operators.
airports and hotels
The value system model introduced above is
Broadband last-mile access networks covering deliberately simplified to serve the purposes of this
city-wide areas paper. In reality, a number of other actors are required
to implement complete systems and services, including
WLAN networks in enterprise guest areas e.g. backbone network operators, equipment and system
suppliers and integrators, and content providers.
Free WLAN networks provided by e.g.
restaurants and cafes as a value-added service 2.2 Players and their roles in the value
to customers system
Free community and neighborhood networks The players in the public WLAN market can be
classified based on the their backgrounds and other
Most of the public WLAN networks are commercial, businesses, as well as on their role in the value system.
although in some cases the access to the networks can
be free. Free WLANs could be seen as a threat to the The first classification is based on the backgrounds of
commercial WLAN operators, but not treated in this the players. Currently, WLAN services are offered by
paper any further. e.g. the following kinds of players:
2.1 Public WLAN value system Mobile and fixed line operators, providing
WLAN services as a complement to their
Porter (1985) introduced the concept of value chain as a other data service offerings
basic tool for systematically examining all the activities
a firm performs and their interactions. Furthermore, Greenfield operators, providing WLAN
Porter defined a value system as a larger stream of services as their main business
activities, comprising of the successive value chains of
multiple firms acting as suppliers, channels, and buyers Site owners, providing WLAN service in their
to one another. own premises, both as a means to tempt more
customers and as a source of additional
Value chain and value system are valuable tools for revenues
firms in analyzing sources for competitive advantage.
Simplified value system figures are also often used to The second classification is based on the roles of the
recognize the key players and their interactions within a players in the public WLAN value system. The most
important types of roles are listed in the following:
Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) only one WLAN network can be deployed in a
that offer services in their own WLAN single location.
networks, as well as roaming services in
networks of other operators Coverage area of the WLAN access points is
small, making it costly to build and operate a
Wholesale network operators that build and nationwide network
manage WLAN networks and sell capacity to
roaming brokers and service operators Roaming gives two kinds of benefits to the operators,
i.e. larger user base and larger footprint. Inbound
Roaming brokers that buy capacity from roaming increases the usage of the operator’s own
network operators and resell capacity to networks, giving rise to higher revenues. Outbound
service operators roaming increases the footprint of the operator, making
the service more attractive to customers.
Clearinghouses that provide clearing and
settlement services between network and 3.1 Roaming models
WLAN roaming can be organized by making bilateral
Virtual WISPs that do not own any networks, roaming agreements with each roaming partner or by a
but buy capacity from network operators or multilateral roaming agreement with a clearinghouse or
roaming brokers and offer services to their a roaming broker.
When using bilateral agreements, the operator makes
Figure 2 illustrates these roles in the public WLAN roaming agreements separately with each selected
value system. partner.
Multilateral roaming agreements can be made either
Network Roaming Service with roaming brokers or with clearinghouses. A
operator intermediary operator
roaming broker buys capacity from many network
operators and then resells it to service operators at a
Site owner WISP higher price. A clearinghouse provides merely the
Bilateral WISP / wholesale WISP / clearing and settlement services for operators that still
roaming network operator virtual WISP can agree on the details of e.g. pricing by bilateral
WISP / wholesale Clearinghouse / WISP /
agreements. A network operator can also exclude some
roaming network operator roaming broker virtual WISP
service operators from the agreement, and vice versa.
Figure 2: Roles in the public WLAN value system Table 1 shows typical characteristics of the different
Table 1: Roaming model characteristics
The terms introduced above often have different
meanings in different sources. The classification Roaming model Bilateral Roaming Clearinghouse
introduced above is based on the personal views of the model broker model model
author. Agreement type Bilateral Multilateral
High Low Medium
3. WLAN roaming agreements
Time-to-market Slow Fast Medium
Roaming enables subscribers of an operator to access Control over
High Low High
their services using networks of other operators. The Control over
charges collected from the subscribers are shared High Low High
between the home operator and the visited operator Control over
High Low Low
according to an agreement between the two. Inbound technologies
roaming agreements allow visiting subscribers to use Tariffs paid to Transaction-
the operator’s network, whereas outbound roaming
agreement allows own subscribers to use the networks
of other operators.
3.2 End-user and operator requirements
In the case of WLANs, the importance of roaming is
From the end-user perspective, mobile data services
even higher than in mobile networks. This is due to the
should be ubiquitous, reliable, affordable, and
convenient and easy to use. WLAN networks provide
Barriers to enter the market are sufficiently the users with increased convenience when using
low, resulting to a high number of operators. services with high throughput demands. WLAN
roaming provides the means to make the footprint of
The use of unlicensed frequency bands limits these services larger. To retain the convenience,
the number of operators in one site. Usually, roaming services should be implemented so that the
end-user experience remains the same both in visited SIM authentication, the home AAA server has
and home networks. interfaces to the home location registers (HLR),
charging gateways (CGw), and on-line charging
From the operator perspective, it is important to be able systems (OCS) of the mobile operators, as specified in
to serve all the potential roaming customers. This means 3GPP TR 23.234.
that e.g. the authentication methods have to be such that
are supported by current WLAN terminals. Roaming Technology-wise, WLAN roaming is straightforward to
should be arranged in a way that minimizes the need for implement and take into use. The lack of roaming
upgrades in the existing WLAN networks. agreements among Finnish WLAN operators therefore
Nevertheless, the roaming architecture should support results from the strategic decisions made by the
smooth upgrades to new network technologies. operators. The following section gives more insight to
the public WLAN market in Finland.
3.2 Technical solution for WLAN roaming
4. Public WLANs and roaming in Finland
From a technology point-of-view, the solution to
WLAN roaming is simple and well documented. The Finnish telecommunications market is dominated
Regardless of the roaming model used, the roaming by three major players: TeliaSonera, Elisa, and the
architecture is based on AAA (Authentication, Finnet Group. Each of the players has both fixed and
Authorization, and Accounting) servers, that proxy the mobile network operations. In addition to these, a
AAA information between each other. The roaming number of service operators are active both in the fixed
architecture is illustrated in Figure 3. and mobile markets.
Currently, both TeliaSonera and Finnet Group have
(Clearinghouse or their own WLAN service offerings targeted to
(Visited WISP) (Home WISP)
enterprise users and traveling businessmen. Elisa has
AAA AAA AAA built some WLAN networks for pilot and trial purposes,
Server Server Server
but does not have commercial WLAN services
RADIUS Direct AAA exchange available.
controller data Internet The current structure of the public WLAN market in
Billing Finland results largely from the merger of Telia and
Sonera in 2003. Before the merger, Telia had already
Point built some WLAN hotspots in Finland, but was forced
to sell all its Finnish operations. Finnet Group acquired
these operations, which gave its mobile service operator
Laptop DNA Finland an opportunity to quickly launch WLAN
End user services. At the same time, Sonera re-branded its
service to HomeRun, according to Telia’s HomeRun
service. Figure 4 illustrates the course of actions.
Figure 3: WLAN roaming architecture (Adapted
from Wi-Fi Alliance 2003)
The architecture can be used to provide roaming
between all the players in the public WLAN market, Telia Sonera Telia
including mobile operators, greenfield operators, and HomeRun wGate HomeRun
Telia and Sonera merge,
DNA Finland buys Telia’s Finnish operations
802.1x and EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol)
based access control and authentication mechanisms are
recognized as the long-term solution for WLANs. The
Telia Sonera DNA
majority of end-user terminals, however, do not yet HomeRun HomeRun WLAN
have support for those. To serve these customers, the
so-called Universal Authentication Method (UAM), i.e.
web-browser based authentication has to be supported. Figure 4: The effect of TeliaSonera merger on the
The roaming architecture introduced above is flexible in Finnish public WLAN market
that it supports a variety of different authentication
methods to be used at the same time. Solutions for the In addition to Sonera HomeRun and DNA WLAN
coexistence of UAM and 802.1x/EAP have been services, there are no active WISPs providing services
introduced e.g. by Intel (2003). in hotspots. Large-scale deployment of site owner
operated WLAN hotspot networks is also yet to be seen.
In the case of mobile operators, SIM (Subscriber Airports, hotels, and conference centers have given the
Identity Module) based authentication can be used to rights to the mobile operators. Only a few cafes are
authenticate the users. This will become more important offering WLAN services for their customers by
when the new WLAN-integrated mobile devices such as themselves.
the Nokia 9500 Communicator become popular. For
A somewhat distinctive characteristic of the Finnish “one operator per site” principle is clearly visible, and
WLAN market are the city-wide WLAN networks WLAN operators have pursued to strike deals with
deployed mostly by energy companies in the cities of complete hotel chains at once.
Vantaa. These companies are competing in the fixed
broadband access market against e.g. DSL and cable Sonera HomeRun pricing is time-based. In addition to a
modem operators. monthly fee, the subscribers are charged on minute-by-
minute basis. Table 3 compares the pricing of Sonera
In the following cases, three Finnish public WLAN HomeRun service to TeliaSonera’s mobile data services
operators are introduced. Sonera HomeRun and DNA in Finland (TeliaSonera Finland 2004b)
WLAN services are offered as complements to the
mobile GSM and GPRS data services of the operators. Table 3: Pricing of Sonera data services (VAT excl.)
Vantaa Energy’s Wivanet service is introduced as an Service €/ €/ € / MB
example of the city-wide WLAN networks. month minute
Sonera Company Data 1 3.36 - -
4.1 Sonera HomeRun GPRS and EDGE - - 1.9456
High-speed data, 1 channel - 0.18*
High-speed data, 2-4 channels - 0.26* -
TeliaSonera Finland acts as WISP in the public WLAN HomeRun WLAN service - 0.37 -
market, offering services in its own hotspot networks. Sonera Company Data 2 15 - -
The company offers both UAM and SIM-authentication GPRS and EDGE < 100 MB - - 0
methods. Services were launched in 2000 under the GPRS and EDGE > 100 MB - - 1.4336
brand name Sonera wGate. After the merger of Telia HomeRun WLAN service - 0.37 -
Separate Sonera HomeRun service 3.36 0.33 -
and Sonera in 2003, the service was renamed to Sonera * + 0.09 € per call
In addition to the hotspots in Finland, Sonera HomeRun
TeliaSonera has been very proactive in signing customers can use the Telia HomeRun hotspots located
contracts with major airports, hotels, and conference in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, as well as in certain
centers in Finland. According to a contract with CAA airports in Europe and in the USA. TeliaSonera Finland
(Civil Aviation Administration) Finland, Sonera has also made roaming agreements with several
Homerun services are available in all of the airports in European operators, listed in Table 4.
Finland. It is also providing WLAN services in five
Silja Line ships cruising in the routes Helsinki- Table 4: Sonera HomeRun roaming agreements
Stockholm, Turku-Stockholm, and Helsinki-Tallinn.
(TeliaSonera Finland 2004a) Operator Countries
Telia HomeRun Sweden, Norway, Denmark
Swisscom Eurospot Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands,
The company has also launched a Corporate Service United Kingdom
Area service for companies wanting to offer WLAN BT OpenZone United Kingdom
access to guests and visitors in the company premises. Orange France
Currently, however, only three companies have been Metronet Austria
reported to have taken this service in use.
Kubi Wireless Spain
Table 2 shows the number of active hotspots for both
TeliaSonera and DNA Finland.
The total number of hotspots available in for Sonera
Table 2: Commercial WLAN hotspots in Finland HomeRun customers is about 2.000. As of now,
TeliaSonera Finland has not made any national roaming
Hotspot type Sonera DNA WLAN agreements.
Hotels 118 36 4.2 DNA WLAN
Sokos / Radisson SAS 35/6 0/0
Cumulus/Rantasipi/Ramada 23/9/5 1/1/5 DNA Finland runs the mobile service operator business
Scandic 0 14 of the Finnet Group. In May 2003, DNA acquired the
Others 46 15 businesses of Telia Finland that was acting as a mobile
Airports 25 1
Conference centers, business 19 14
service operator and also operating a number of Telia
parks etc. HomeRun WLAN hotspots in Finland. After the
Enterprise guest areas 36 (total) 6 (Finnet acquisition, DNA launched its WLAN services under
3 (non- offices) the brand name DNA WLAN.
Mobile phone stores 8 0
Ships 5 0
As shown in Table 2, a majority of DNA WLAN
Restaurants, cafes 5 6 hotspots consists of hotels and conference centers. In
Other 20 2 March 2003, DNA announced that it will expand its
Total 236 65 WLAN footprint to 180 Hesburger fast-food restaurants
around the country. The number of new hotspots is very
large compared to the existing base of DNA WLAN
As the table shows, a half of the Sonera HomeRun hotspots. The deal is interesting also in the sense that
hotspots are located in hotels. In the hotel market, the Hesburger has done close co-operation with Saunalahti
that is a mobile service operator and one of DNA’s Table 7: Wivanet pricing (VAT incl.)
rivals in the mobile market. Service Connection Monthly
tariff (€) tariff (€)
DNA offers three different types of WLAN Wivanet 128/128 60 24.90
subscriptions, based on flat-fee, usage-based, and time- Wivanet 512/512 60 39.90
based pricing. Table 4 shows the pricing of DNA data Wivanet 1M/512 60 59.90
services (DNA Finland 2004). Wivanet Koti (2M/2M, shared 60 35 per
between multiple households) household
Wivanet Yritys (2.5M/2.5M) 150 150
Table 5: Pricing of DNA data services (VAT excl.)
Service €/ €/ € / MB
month minute A Wivanet subscriber is allowed to use the service in
dna Corporate Subscription 6.50 - - the whole coverage area of the network. Vantaa Energy
High-speed data, 1 channel - 0.096 -
High-speed data, 2-3 channels - 0.205 -
markets the service as one that could be used at home as
dna Corporate GPRS 13.648 - 0 well as in cafes and outdoors. True coverage e.g. inside
dna WLAN gold 90 - - public buildings is, however, very questionable as
dna WLAN silver 40 - 0.05 separate in-building hotspots have not been built.
dna WLAN base 5 0.25 -
City-wide WLAN network operators have made an
agreement on roaming services. The agreement covers
DNA Finland has made international roaming eight cities in Finland, as shown in Table 8 (Radionet
agreements with 4 different operators and a total of 2003).
about 200 hotspots. These operators are listed in Table
6. Table 8: Wivanet roaming agreements
Table 6: DNA WLAN roaming agreements
Haminan Energia Hamina
Operator Countries Suomen 4G Lahti
Netpoint Radisson SAS hotels in 19 European Mäntsälän Sähkö Mäntsälä
countries Porvoon Energia Porvoo
Kubi Wireless Spain Rauman Energia Rauma
Monzoon Networks Switzerland Netsafir Vaasa
TDC Mobil Denmark Leppävaara area in Espoo
By far, DNA Finland has not made any national The city-wide WLAN operators have not by far made
roaming agreements. any roaming agreements with hotspot operators.
4.3 Vantaa Energy Wivanet 5. Conclusion
Vantaa Energy is an energy company, providing The paper discussed the business models of the players
electricity, district heating, and natural gas to residential in the public WLAN market and possible roaming
and business customers in and around the city of models between them. These were contrasted to three
Vantaa. In 2003, the company launched its Wivanet different Finnish WLAN operators.
wireless broadband services based on WLAN
technology. WISPs can choose between a number of different
strategies and roles in the public WLAN value system.
The Wivanet service is a result of the co-operation of In other countries, wholesale network operators and
several companies. Vantaa Energy acts as the network virtual WISPs have emerged, and WISPs have widely
operator and also owns and bills the customers. The contracted with clearinghouses and roaming brokers. In
network technology is provided by Radionet, a Finnish Finland, however, the main players have pursued the
WLAN equipment manufacturer. The network has been traditional WISP model with bilateral international
built as a turn-key service by Digita, a company roaming agreements. The full potential of roaming has
responsible for national transmission and broadcasting not been made use of.
networks as well as radio and television stations in
Finland. ISP services are provided by Tele2. From a technical point of view, WLAN roaming is
possible to implement in a way that would suit all the
The Wivanet network provides broadband last-mile different players in the market. The clearinghouse-based
connections to residential users and SMEs. Therefore, it WLAN roaming architecture is technically feasible and
is competing with e.g. ADSL and cable modem services perhaps the most viable solution to fulfil the
provided by other operators. The network consists requirements of different types of players. Bilateral
currently of more than 100 base station sites and more agreements are also a viable option, at least between the
than 300 WLAN access points with sector antennas bigger players.
installed at the sites. The network covers over 50
percent of the households in Vantaa, the target being 80 The lack of national roaming agreements results from
percent in the end of 2004. Pricing of the Wivanet the strategies driven by the operators. Bigger players do
subscriptions is shown in Table 7 (Wivanet 2004). not want smaller players to utilize their networks.
Clearly, the situation is not beneficial for the public
WLAN market as a whole. End-users have to pay
separately to a number of operators depending on the
places they visit, decreasing the willingness to use the
services at all. Finnish operators should take co-
operative actions in order to make WLAN roaming
available, fuelling the growth of the whole mobile data
3GPP TS 23.234 V2.4.0 (2004-01), 3rd Generation
Partnership Project; Technical Specification Group
Services and System Aspects; 3GPP system to Wireless
Local Area Network (WLAN) Interworking; System
Description (Release 6)
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