Testing has begun on a new class of WiFi hotspots that will log mobile users in automatically with their SIM cards, potentially alleviating cellular network congestion and helping users stay within the limits of their data plans.
The Wireless Broadband Alliance announced today that it has completed trials with a long list network operators, mobile device makers, and network equipment manufacturers. Participants included AT&T, BT, China Mobile, Swisscom, LG, Intel, Aruba Networks, BelAir Networks, and Cisco. Further trials testing “the most advanced technology features” will occur in the second half of 2012 with the first deployments of “Next Generation Hotspots” to take place in the next 12 months. Although some names are missing (such as Verizon), the Alliance said its member operators serve more than 1 billion subscribers and operate more than 1 million hotspots worldwide.
“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,” the Wireless Broadband Alliance explained. “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.”
According to GigaOm, Next Generation Hotspots will support “complex roaming arrangements,” allowing operators to share capacity and letting devices connect to multiple networks. The just-completed trials tested requirements for network discovery and selection, security, and automatic authentication.
The Wireless Broadband Alliance program is complementary to a project from the Wi-Fi Alliance, whose Wi-Fi Certified PassPoint program will make it easier for owners of smartphones and other WiFi-equipped devices to access hotspots without entering usernames or passwords. Certification tests for PassPoint will begin in July, with the goal of promoting interoperability between access points and user-owned devices, Computerworld reports. Ultimately, the groups want to make switching from one WiFi hotspot to another a process that’s invisible to the user, much as moving from one cell tower to another already is.
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Next-gen WiFi hotspots to feature no-password login with phone SIM card