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Wi-Fi standard could benefit consumers and operators

Wi-Fi is increasingly important to mobile operators and their customers, with 50% of smartphone usage already occurring on Wi-Fi networks, according to data from Cisco. Service providers recognize Wi-Fi as a way to relieve network congestion and improve service quality.

As devices and networks become faster, access to Wi-Fi needs to keep up. “People are getting fed up with the extensive signup and registration processes that gate access to services in some locations,” said Torbjorn Ward, CEO of Aptilo Networks, a provider of Wi-Fi, WiMAX and LTE service management. “Using SIM card authentication for those devices that already contain a SIM card is an excellent way to address this problem, and efforts such as Hotspot 2.0 are helping the industry to sort out how to do the system selection and automatic login as much as possible.”

HotSpot 2.0 is a technical specification developed by the members of the Wi-Fi Alliance to make Wi-Fi access more consistent and efficient. The Wi-Fi Alliance has created a brand certification program called Passpoint for its HotSpot 2.0 spec, and devices that pass this certification testing can be marketed as “Passpoint devices.”

Qualcomm Atheros and Cisco are two prominent players that have embraced Passpoint and Hotspot 2.0. The companies are joining forces to offer a solution that uses Qualcomm WLAN chipsets and Cisco’s wireless access points and network technology to enable devices to roam seamlessly from cellular to Wi-Fi networks and back. Mobile devices equipped with the Qualcomm chipsets will find and connect to Wi-Fi automatically.

“The aim is for operators to push the program to the network where they educate the customer about Wi-Fi roaming and enhanced services,” said Rishi Grover, senior product manager at Qualcomm Atheros. “Going forward, branding for Passpoint-enabled devices will be labeled on devices and access points.”

Cisco is leveraging its recent acquisition of Ireland’s ThinkSmart Technologies to make location analytics part of its Wi-Fi offering for carriers. The ability to recognize a user’s proximity opens up the possibility of working with nearby businesses to make real-time offers to customers in a vicinity.

For carriers, solutions like Passpoint and location analytics also open up new opportunities to attract “temporary” subscribers. “Mobile carriers assume that every device and user they serve must be a subscriber,” said Ward. “However, there could be a huge audience of “non-subscribers” to reach.”

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Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse is the publisher of Network Builder Reports ( At RCR, Martha authored more than 20 in-depth feature reports and more than 2,400 news articles. She also created the Mobile Minute and the 5 Things to Know Today series. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York and managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Martha is the board president of Austin's Trinity Center and is a member of the Women's Wireless Leadership Forum.

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