The Wi-Fi Alliance has expanded its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint programme. Now, in addition to seamless connection and WPA2 security for mobile devices in Wi-Fi hotspots, Passpoint provides a streamlined method to establish new user accounts and connect Wi-Fi-only devices such as tablets and notebooks.
The new features in Passpoint expand the programme’s strategic value to mobile and fixed operators, and open opportunities for other sectors as they invest in Wi-Fi to meet business challenges.
The Passpoint programme expansion builds on its foundational authentication and security mechanisms, adding key features that make Passpoint more versatile and scalable. The new features are:
Online sign-up and immediate account provisioning: Passpoint now enables a streamlined process to establish a new user account at the point of access. For service providers, this reduces barriers to account creation and usage. For users, this capability takes the complexity out of getting connected and enables in-pocket connection across a service provider’s network of hotspots.
Secure registration: The process of establishing a new account or connecting a second device takes place securely. Devices are provisioned with the appropriate credentials and configuration for network access. Users can be confident they are connecting to their chosen provider’s valid network, and their credentials are exchanged securely.
Operator policy: Passpoint now includes the capability for service providers to distribute their specific subscriber policies, such as which networks to join and in what order of preference. This policy support enables providers to deliver the best user experience on Wi-Fi, while still easily maintaining the business requirements of Wi-Fi roaming agreements.
Speaking to Wireless, Kelly Davis-Felner, vice president of marketing at the Wi-Fi Alliance, said: ‘We’ve added some major features with Passpoint 2.0. The first is on-line sign up, which provides full account provisioning at the point of service right away. Up to now we’ve used cellular SIM-based authentication methods, but this latest service enables us to reach out to non-SIM-based, Wi-Fi only devices and authenticate them too.
‘The second feature we have added concerns mobile operator policy distribution. This allows operators to set policies and makes it easier for them to satisfy the business requirements of Wi-Fi roaming agreements. Operators can control which networks a user device joins and in what order of preference.
‘So, a European Orange subscriber can easily roam in the US by choosing an Orange partner in the US. This is good for both mobile and fixed and Wi-Fi only operators and it is coming at a good time as operators are trialling Next Generation Hotspot services.’
Increasing importance of Wi-Fi for service providers
Passpoint’s expansion comes at a time when Wi-Fi is increasingly crucial to service providers. For example, fixed broadband operators have launched ambitious Wi-Fi deployments in public settings and extended Wi-Fi coverage with a growing number of homespots.
“Wi-Fi-first” business models have provided a disruptive counterpoint to traditional operator services, and retailers are deploying Wi-Fi as a way to improve customer engagement. Wi-Fi roaming agreements among service providers are emerging as an important complement to traditional cellular roaming.
“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 Wi-Fi Alliance.
“What makes the new features exciting is that they empower businesses to realize the powerful commercial impact that Wi-Fi can offer by giving them the ability to engage with customers on a new platform in a secure and streamlined fashion.”
Passpoint momentum is growing in the service provider and vendor segments. Hundreds of models of smartphones, tablets, and operator-grade access points have been certified for Passpoint, which was launched in 2012 and is based on Wi-Fi Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0 Technical Specification.
Fixed and mobile operators, including Boingo, Orange, SK Telecom, Time Warner Cable, and Telkom Indonesia have deployed Passpoint networks, and more than 20 operators are now participating in Wi-Fi roaming trials based on Passpoint.
"Passpoint delivers vital access and security technology for Wi-Fi providers of every type, while also easing the way for effective Wi-Fi roaming interconnect agreements," said Ken Rehbehn, principal analyst in the 451 Research Mobility Team.
"The new features are important because they enable Passpoint's value proposition by making it simple to connect millions of Wi-Fi-only devices to secure, trusted Passpoint venues. Wi-Fi providers - including fixed, mobile, retail and hospitality services - should take note."
Benefits for retail and hospitality sectors
Another aspect that makes Passpoint interesting is how it can benefit new service providers in the retail and hospitality sectors. ‘Passpoint makes the retail proposition that much more attractive,’ said Kelly Davis-Felner. ‘Wi-Fi solves the indoor coverage problems you get with cellular and it does location really well.
‘What Passpoint brings to that mix is that it allows retailers engage customers at the point of sale and to offer them seamless value added products, such as delivering opt-in loyalty perks and coupons. It also enables them to capture customer information which is gold to them, as it allows them to identify customer behaviour and trends.’
The hospitality sector is already using Wi-Fi to offer customers a differentiated Wi-Fi experience. Stadium owners can offer video replays, online better and food ordering. Hotels can use Wi-Fi to deliver additional services such as in-room entertainment, room service, checkout and so on.
How Passpoint can influence mobile operator subscriber churn
The end-user market is poised to embrace seamless Wi-Fi offerings. Research recently conducted among smartphone and tablet users in the United States and United Kingdom on behalf of Wi-Fi Alliance found that Wi-Fi services enabled by Passpoint have the potential to foster customer loyalty and drive measurable business value for both service providers and retailers.
Among the findings are the following:
• Seventy percent of respondents agreed that they would be less likely to leave their cable or wireless provider if the provider offered a network of widely available Passpoint hotspots
• Sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed that they would switch mobile providers for a Passpoint-enabled Wi-Fi offering, and half of respondents agreed they would be willing to pay more to get it
• In the U.S. and U.K., 69% of respondents have used a mobile device during a retail shopping experience. Survey respondents stated that having a Passpoint-enabled hotspot service would make them more likely to stay in the store longer (28%), return to the store more often (29%), and choose the store over one without Passpoint (27%).
Kelly Davis-Felner commented: ‘What this polling date reveals is that having Passpoint enabled services might make subscribers think about whether to stay with or leave their service provider. If their provider has Passpoint they are more likely to stay, so that drives subscriber loyality, but if they don’t that might encourage churn.’
The Passpoint certification programme test suite includes support from Aruba Networks, Broadcom, Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm Atheros, and Ruckus Wireless. DigiCert and NetworkFX are authorized certificate authorities for the program.
For more information on Passpoint, including a white paper and a full list of certified products, please visit http://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/wi-fi-certified-passpoint.