The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the industry association focused on driving the next generation Wi-Fi experience, have announced that many of the world’s largest operators and vendors have successfully participated in trials of Next Generation Hotspots (NGH) that drastically simplify Wi-Fi hotspot access (see notes to editors for a full list of participants). The WBA expects the first NGH deployments to take place over the next 12 months and will be organizing trials of more advanced technology features in second half of 2012.
Next Generation Hotspots are vastly easier for users to find and use because, like the cellular network, devices can securely automatically connect with no need for users manually entering usernames or passwords. This overcomes the issue of users knowing which hotspots they can access or how to connect. It also allows mobile operators, who increasingly have their own or partner hotspot networks, to ‘offload’ many more users from their busy mobile broadband networks. The new hotspots feature similar levels of security to the cellular network including end-to-end radio link encryption and SIM authentication.
The aim of the WBA trials was to test the NGH requirements for network discovery and selection, security, automatic authentication in a production environment on, and between, different operators’ actual networks using equipment and devices from various vendors. It also aimed to identify and recommend how best to implement automatic authentication and the measures needed to upgrade home networks to NGH. The trials also made the NGH service requirements, developed by the operator-led WBA, available to vendors who use the ‘HotSpot 2.0’ device standards from the vendor led Wi-Fi alliance. Together these help to define how to practically turn the latest Wi-Fi technology into the best possible operator hotspot services.
Chris Bruce, Chair of the WBA said: “The complementary relationship between Wi-Fi and mobile networks is finally becoming a reality. Next Generation Hotspots allow smartphones and tablets to automatically roam from the cellular network on to Wi-Fi hotspots thereby augmenting the coverage and capacity of both. Fixed and mobile operators alike are leading a Wi-Fi hotspot renaissance in a renewed effort to sate the seemingly unquenchable desire for ubiquitous broadband connectivity. What has made this trial so unique is that the key players from both the mobile operator community and the Wi-Fi ecosystem have actively come together and supported each other for this industry-wide program. The future is a great broadband experience that operates over all sorts of different technologies.”
The WBA will continue this effort during 2012, putting in place a new stage of the trials to pursue and test additional features of NGH, bringing to Wi-Fi a cellular like experience to customers.