The GSMA and the Wireless Broadband Alliance(WBA) today (20 March 2012) announced they are working together to simplify connectivity to Wi-Fi hotspots from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
The joint initiative is developing technical and commercial frameworks for Wi-Fi roaming, which will bring together the benefits of mobile technology and Wi-Fi networks for the first time, creating a far simpler consumer experience.
‘The proliferation of smartphones and tablets around the world, as well as consumers’ huge appetite for data means innovative solutions need to be explored to make using the Internet as convenient and as accessible as possible,’ said Dan Warren, Senior Director of Technology at the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. ‘Through combining the proven capabilities of Mobile Broadband and Wi-Fi technologies, users will have the freedom to move between networks with ease.’
Wi-Fi is increasingly emerging as a feature on smartphones and tablets, but today there is no consistency in the way these devices attach to Wi-Fi networks. This process includes device configuration, the use of access keys and the various mechanisms for acquiring and paying for connectivity. Wi-Fi roaming will allow mobile devices to seamlessly connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot using the SIM card for authentication, as well as enable mobile operators to uniquely and securely identify users whether they are on a mobile or Wi-Fi network.
Wi-Fi roaming will be based on the WBA’s ‘Next Generation Hotspot’ programme and the Wi-Fi Alliance’s ‘Passpoint certification’ technology. It will also build on the GSMA’s successful roaming principles that have propelled the mobile industry to more than six billion mobile connections worldwide, a number that is expected to more than double within the next ten years.
‘The combination of Wi-Fi and mobile technologies extends the power of broadband for consumers,’ said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO, WBA. ‘The work by the WBA and the GSMA will expedite the availability of a new generation of Internet access for the benefit of consumers everywhere. Key to this is Wi-Fi being able to replicate the success of mobile technology and allow users to roam seamlessly between different networks.’
To date, the Wi-Fi roaming initiative has identified and agreed to the basis for a common approach to authenticating mobile devices on Wi-Fi hotspots, automatically and securely. It will now work towards aligning guidelines on security, billing, data offload, device implementation and network selection to create a consistent solution for GSMA and WBA members.
This work will build on the GSMA’s GPRS Roaming Exchange (GRX) and the WBA’s Wireless Roaming Intermediary Exchange (WRIX) roaming models, which combined, will enable billions of consumers around the world to enjoy straightforward Internet connectivity.
The Wireless Broadband Alliance was founded in 2003 with the aim of securing an outstanding user experience through the global deployment of next generation Wi-Fi. Membership includes major fixed operators such as BT, NTT Communications, Comcast and Time Warner Cable; seven of the top 10 mobile operator groups (by revenue) and leading technology companies such as Cisco, Google and Intel.
Wi-Fi is increasingly being accessed by mobile workers using smartphones and tablet. According to the latest Mobile workforce report from Wi-Fi hotspot provider iPass:
• 58% of mobile workers vigorously used Wi-Fi in a given day (more than two hours) on their smartphones, 73% on their tablets, and 83% on their laptops. 90% of mobile workers kept Wi-Fi on their smartphones turned on 24 hours a day.
• 61% of a mobile workers day is within range of a Wi-Fi network, and for 83% of mobile workers, there were fewer than 8 hours each day when they were not within range of Wi-Fi.
• The vast majority (88%) of tablet owners used Wi-Fi as their predominant network to connect.
• 64% believe that their service provider should provide Wi-Fi access if they agree to limit data usage, and 31% of mobile workers expect their service provider to provide it for free. North Americans were more likely to expect free Wi-Fi service (34%), compared to Europeans (31%) and those in Asia Pacific (23%).