Count Comcast, Verizon Wireless and AT&T among the newest members of the Wireless Broadband Alliance.
The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) was formed in 2003 with the goal of driving the adoption of wireless technologies globally by developing common frameworks for interoperability across networks, technologies and devices.
Other new members to the WBA, which were announced yesterday at the 17th WBA Roundtable Conference and Wi-Fi Ecosystem Summit in San Diego, include Cisco Systems, software vendor Devicescape and South Korean mobile operator KT Corp.
"Demand for Wi-Fi access in the 'third place' is growing, as more and more consumers want to stay connected in indoor locations outside the home or office," said Chris Bruce, CEO of BT Openzone and chairman of the WBA. "Uptake of smartphones and tablet devices has seen a rising number of companies offering Wi-Fi as part of their service mix, and we are delighted to open the alliance to new members. We are excited about the upcoming meeting, where together across the ecosystem we will work on how we can make Wi-Fi even easier for customers to use."
The event will also see the public release of a set of specifications designed by WBA to aid the roaming between wireless Internet service providers (WISPs). WBA said the new specification, WISPr 2.0, would provide seamless authentication between Wi-Fi networks and other access networks such as GSM/UMTS/LTE and WiMAX. WBA said WISPr 2.0 would also make roaming easier and help overcome interoperability problems, making it easier for end users to login.
A WISPr 2.0 trial is slated to be launched at this week's event. The trial will demonstrate how mobile, cable, WiMAX and broadband service providers can seamlessly connect to Wi-Fi networks by taking advantage of the WISPr 2.0 specification. Participants will work with leading wireless broadband operators to make their equipment and software compatible with WISPr 2.0 and to support seamless authentication on public Wi-Fi networks around the world. The trial is slated to last six months.
While the WBA's goal is to make signing on to Wi-Fi hotspots easier for customers across other service providers' networks, AT&T is trialing a Wi-Fi hotspot near Times Square as a way to ease traffic off of its overburdened 3G network. AT&T said it might expand the Wi-Fi hotspots to other metro areas across the nation later this year.
In April, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision agreed to let their respective subscribers roam for free across each other's Wi-Fi hotspots in the New York City metropolitan area.