GSMA and WBA collaborate on SIM-authentication for wifi

The GSMA has announced a collaboration with the Wireless Broadband Alliance aimed at simplifying the process by which mobile devices connect to wifi networks. The joint initiative will see the SIM adopted as the principal means by which managed wifi networks identify mobile devices, paving the way for cross-network roaming agreements.

While some wifi operators also run cellular networks, others are independent and have no access to SIM details. Dan Warren, technology director at the GSMA, said this collaboration would enable any operators to create the kind of roaming agreements that have been central to the success of the GSM family of cellular standards.

Warren said the benefits to consumers would be significant. “Consumers get wifi thrown into the mix so, if I’m attached to a wifi network I can be confident that it’s the best connectivity available to me. It’s ready to use and I can attach to that network without the need to find the right SSID, or get a password from the coffee shop or tap in my credit card details. All of that authentication and connectivity is configured onto my phone and happens automatically because of the roaming agreement.”

The initiative also opens the door for operators to extend the offering of any SIM-based services into an offload environment. Mobile operators are keen to make the SIM the secure element of mobile payment services, for example, and this project would allow transactions to be carried out without the need for cellular access.

“The evolution of voice away from TDM towards IP in LTE means that this could lead to voice being implemented in a very similar way over wifi as well,” said Warren, “with the operator being able to offer the good things which a carrier class voice service is capable of.”

GSMA expects the remainder of the work between the two organisations to last nine months, with the first commercial deployments in 12 – 18 months’ time.

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