Operators are demanding truly carrier-class WiFi far sooner than the standards can fully deliver, but progress is steadily being made with the two key technologies in this area – the WiFi Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0/Passpoint program, and its infrastructure-side partner, the WBA’s Next Generation Hotspot (NGH). The WiFi Alliance has added new features to Passpoint this week, to make it easier and more secure for consumers.
The new functions include online sign-up and immediate provisioning for new customers of a WLAN; secure registration so users are sure they are connected to the right network; and the ability for operators to enforce subscriber policies over multiple hotspots. The last of these is implemented through 802.11u extensions.
Passpoint certification began in 2012 and gathered momentum on the vendor side, but operator uptake has been slower. It is only this year that we have seen significant players finally rolling out networks which support Passpoint and NGH capabilities. Together, these complementary standards allow for simpler discovery, sign-on and authentication for users; and for single sign-up and roaming between different access points and between cellular and WiFi.
These are important changes, helping service providers make their customers’ experience easier and, crucially for mobile operators, allowing seamless movement between their 3G/4G and WiFi networks, which aids mobile data offload and, in future, converged network services.
However, the urgency has not been felt until this year, when Boingo and Time Warner Cable got the ball rolling with Passpoint/NGH deployments in limited areas. Boingo CTO Derek Petersen said the aggregator had now made Passpoint a standard requirement for every new network it deploys and he commented: “Carriers, handset manufacturers, and network OEMs should run – not walk – to embrace and deploy Passpoint capabilities as soon as possible to maximize accessibility and dramatically improve the user experience.”
Orange, SK Telecom and Telkom Indonesia are among other commercial deployers and about 20 more are conducting Passpoint roaming trials.
“Enthusiasm for Passpoint from both mobile and fixed operators continues to mount, and the strategic value of Passpoint extends into new segments as well,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the WiFi Alliance, in a statement. “What makes the new features exciting is that they empower businesses to realize the powerful commercial impact that WiFi can offer by giving them the ability to engage with customers on a new platform in a secure and streamlined fashion.”