Next generation WiFi hotspot technology starts commercial trials

June 27, 2012 // By Nick Flaherty
Major operators in Europe are set to carry out advanced tests of a new WiFi standard for easy access hot spots using newly standardized equipment after successful trials using prototype kit over the last six months.

Many of the world’s largest operators and vendors have signed up to test Next Generation Hotspots (NGH) which use the Wi-Fi Passpoint standard approved this week. This allows users to log in without user names and passwords, relying on SIM card and serial number data instead. European operators in the trials include BT, BskyB’s The Cloud, Deutsche Telekom, Everything Everywhere, Orange, Portugal Telecom TMN, Swisscom, Talk Talk, TeliaSonera and Telefónica. Equipment suppliers include Ericsson and Comfone AG as well as Intel, Cisco, HP and Juniper.
The trials will test operator-to-operator billing procedures to ensure that they are compensated when carrying each other’s subscribers and test features that allow users to change their hotspot subscription package or set up a connection. The trials will also test a variety of authentication methods, including SIM-based, for the growing number of smartphones, as well as non-SIM based, for tablets, laptops and legacy phones which cannot support SIM authentication. The methods to be tested are EAP-TLS, EAP-TTLS, EAP-SIM and EAP-AKA.
“Growing mobile data usage is driving a surge of operator interest in public Wi-Fi. Key to this is the development of a new generation of hotspots. Not only do they remove the need for cumbersome log-in procedures, they also support operator roaming agreements giving users broadband access wherever they are. By employing simple connectivity, open standards and global operator relationships, public Wi-Fi now has the same crucial ingredients that made cellular technologies such a massive success. Many of the world’s largest operators are now set to put the first standards-based hotspot equipment through its paces in the most extensive trials ever conducted later this year,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance.
The WBA expects the first commercial NGH deployments to take place in early next year.