Service provider Wi-Fi ramps up

The Wi-Fi Alliance is now testing mobile devices and infrastructure equipment for its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint program.

Jun 28th, 2012

The Wi-Fi Alliance is now testing mobile devices and infrastructure equipment for its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint program. With the news, the consortium says that the Wi-Fi industry has reached a major milestone in the technology’s evolution as an operator-grade network. Passpoint mobile devices can automatically discover and connect to Wi-Fi networks powered by Passpoint-certified access points, delivering the true mobile broadband experience that users want.

According to a press release, the specification behind Passpoint was defined by service provider and equipment maker members of the Wi-Fi Alliance to address critical business needs for mobile data, streamlined access and subscriber loyalty. As mobile users continue to increase their use of data-intensive applications, Passpoint eases service provider data traffic offload to Wi-Fi networks. In addition to making it easy for end users to connect, hotspots equipped with Passpoint-certified equipment automatically enable enterprise-grade WPA2 security. The Passpoint certification program is based on technology defined in the Wi-Fi Alliance Hotspot 2.0 Specification.

“Product manufacturers partnered with service providers to develop the Passpoint program in the Wi-Fi Alliance,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “Our organization has become a key collaboration forum driving Wi-Fi’s evolution in support of service providers.”

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Wi-Fi Alliance contends that launch of the certification program "means that there is finally a single industry-wide solution for seamless access to Wi-Fi mobile broadband, and providers can leverage Passpoint as a foundation to rapidly expand Wi-Fi roaming agreements." With multi-provider Wi-Fi roaming, subscribers can enjoy seamless connectivity in even more hotspots than those provided by their own service.

Wi-Fi Alliance recently conducted polling of smartphone and tablet users in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Japan, China, and Korea to measure interest in easy-to-use mobile Wi-Fi. The results reflect strong user readiness to embrace Passpoint service offerings from providers among subscribers in each country. Among the findings:

-- Wi-Fi drives usage: On average, 74 percent of respondents stated they would use “a little” or “a lot” more data if they had unlimited data usage via easy-to-use Wi-Fi hotspots.

-- Most would switch: On average, 77 percent of respondents also stated they would be likely to switch service providers, either immediately or at contract end, in order to access a Passpoint-like Wi-Fi offering, with 65 percent indicating a willingness to pay more per month for such an offering.

-- Passpoint drives loyalty: Conversely, an average of 87 percent of respondents said they would definitely/probably stay with their current provider if a Passpoint-like offering were included in their plan.

The first products to be designated Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint, and which form the test suite for the certification program, are as follows:

* BelAir 20E
* Broadcom Dualband 11n WiFi and Dual Band 802.11n Access Point
* Cisco CT2500 Series WLAN Controller and LAP1260 Series Access Point
* Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230
* Marvell Plug – 88W8787 802.11 a/b/g/n Reference Design
* MediaTek Hotspot 2.0 Client V1
* Qualcomm Atheros Dual-Band XSPAN 3-Stream 802.11n Access Point and Dual-Band XSPAN 2-stream 802.11n WLAN Adapter
* Ruckus Wireless ZoneFlex 7363 and ZoneDirector 1100

More information, including a full report on the results of user polling in six countries, a list of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint products, the Wi-Fi Alliance Hotspot 2.0 technical specification, a white paper, and a list of FAQs, is available at www.wi-fi.org/passpoint.

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