Wireless Broadband Alliance trials next-gen hotspots

Industry body the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has signed up a host of operators, including China Unicom and Telenor, and vendors for advanced trials of Next Generation Hotspots (NGH). The technology aims to give users easier access to a greater number of public wifi access points around the world.

The trials will take place in the fourth quarter of 2012, and will employ the first generation of wifi certified Passpoint equipment, which the Wifi Alliance has already started approving. The Passpoint equipment allows users to access an NGH without the need for a username and passwords, instead using the SIM for authentication.

The WBA expects the first NGH deployments to take place in the first half of 2013.

The advanced trials build on the first phase of tests conducted earlier this year, which used prototype equipment from a variety of vendors to test automatic hotspot discovery and authentication across various operators’ networks.

The latest trials will repeat basic tests using newly certified wifi equipment as well as verify more advanced operator billing and connectivity policies as well as extensive authentication methods. The trials will test operator-to-operator billing procedures to ensure that they are compensated when carrying each other’s subscribers.

“Growing mobile data usage is driving a surge of operator interest in public wifi,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO at the WBA. “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.”

As data demand continues to skyrocket, seamless roaming through industry standards is an essential part of the solution to enable data offload to wifi for all carriers, according to Luis-Alfonso Serrano, senior VP of business and corporate development at wifi hotspot provider Boingo Wireless and WBA board member.

“This represents a seismic shift in opportunity for wifi operators to provide a valuable service to the mobile industry,” he said. “These trials will usher in a new era of wireless cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of consumers worldwide. Ensuring that mobile customers can get connected on their favourite devices wherever and whenever they want, without having to worry about authentication or billing is fundamental to simplifying access for users and enabling mobile data offload for carriers.”

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