BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Everything Everywhere have signed up to a trial of ‘Next Generation Hotspots,’ which ought to do away with login splash pages when you’re using public Wi-Fi on the move.
The trial, set up by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, will take place later this year and will use Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint equipment, which will let users access Wi-Fi without the need for usernames and passwords.
The idea is that when you connect to a Passpoint Wi-Fi point, login authentication will happen automatically, as SIM card identification will be passed to a Wi-Fi point.
BT, Sky and TalkTalk have signed up to represent fixed-line broadband subscribers in the UK with Everything Everywhere conducting trials with mobile broadband. BT and Sky of course have their own public Wi-Fi networks, BT Wi-fi, the recently rebranded BT Openzone and Sky's The Cloud.
Password-free Wi-Fi: Use your SIM to sign in
“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,” said Wireless Broadband Alliance CEO Shrikant Shenwa.
So in other words if you’re an Orange mobile customer and you connect to an Orange Wi-Fi hotspot, you should be able to jack straight in.
Authentication will also be handled for non-SIM based devices, tablets, laptops and older phones which can’t support SIM identification. The trials will test operator-to-operator billing procedures to ensure that they are compensated when carrying each other’s subscribers - kind of like termination fees but for Wi-Fi.
As well as this, the trial could see networks using Passpoint Wi-Fi to offload data costs from their networks, automatically connecting to Wi-Fi when a customer walks past.
This is something that Orange, to some extent, has trialled with Kineto Wireless’ Smart Wi-Fi app. Pre-loaded onto Orange phones like the Orange Monte Carlo, Smart Wi-Fi uses subscriber’s home networks to offload data traffic and route voice calls over the broadband line.
The Wireless Broadband Alliance expects the first wave of Next Generation Hotspots to be live in 2013. The number of Wi-Fi hostpots across the world are expected to exceed 5.8 million by 2015, a 350 per cent increase on figures from November 2011. This doesn’t include so called ‘community Wi-Fi’ hotspots, where broadband subscribers share their wireless access like you do with BT Fon.