|Hotspot 2.0: Bringing Wi-Fi traffic into the carrier's mobile network |
July 29, 2011 — 3:21pm ET | By Lynnette Luna
Wi-Fi networks are edging closer to becoming an extension of mobile networks through standards work that will add elements such as security, authentication and automatic roaming. But will operators wait for these standards given the fact that they desperately need data offloading solutions now?
Last month the Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wireless Broadband Alliance, which represents mobile operators, cable companies and others wanting to deploy service-provider-grade Wi-Fi networks, combined their resources to address Wi-Fi hotspot roaming and authentication. Under the teaming, the Wi-Fi Alliance's planned certification program for Wi-Fi equipment will combine with the WBA's inter-operator Wi-Fi roaming efforts. The alliance has been working on a Wi-Fi Certified hotspot program, otherwise known as Hotspot 2.0, to ensure that Wi-Fi devices can easily connect to hotspots in a security-protected, interoperable way. The alliance is defining technologies and certification requirements for Wi-Fi infrastructure devices and endpoints such as handsets, tablets and notebooks. The alliance plans to introduce the certification program in the middle of 2012.
The development is born out of the fact that mobile operators have been deluged with data traffic, and they are looking to offload that traffic onto Wi-Fi hotspots. But they want the same security and roaming features on those Wi-Fi hotspots as they do on their mobile networks.
Shipments of electronic products with embedded wireless local area networking technology (WLAN) will surpass 1 billion units for the first time ever in 2011 and then rise to more than 2 billion in 2015, according to iSuppli.
Wi-Fi roaming, and roaming revenues
Moreover, operators are interested in garnering roaming revenues from their company-owned Wi-Fi networks down the line, said Evan Kaplan, president and CEO of iPass, which recently introduced its Open Mobile Exchange platform to operators looking to make Wi-Fi roaming agreements.
"Operators need to offer a global Wi-Fi solution as part of their bill," Kaplan said. "They want to offload traffic domestically wherever possible, and they want relationships with as many Wi-Fi providers as they can so they can wholesale the best rates with them."