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GSMA, WBA collaborate on Wi-Fi roaming

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 3:19pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

The GSMA and the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) today announced a collaboration aimed at simplifying connectivity to Wi-Fi hotspots from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The joint initiative will develop technological solutions to make roaming between and connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots easier for consumers.

“The proliferation of smartphones and tablets around the world, as well as consumers’ huge appetite for data, means innovative solutions need to be explored to make using the Internet as convenient and as accessible as possible,” said Dan Warren, senior director of technology at the GSMA. “Through combining the proven capabilities of mobile Broadband and Wi-Fi technologies, users will have the freedom to move between networks with ease.”

The process includes device configuration, the use of access keys, and the various mechanisms for acquiring and paying for connectivity. According to the GSMA, a Wi-Fi roaming system would allow mobile devices to seamlessly connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot using the SIM card for authentication, as well as enable mobile operators to uniquely and securely identify users whether they are on a mobile or Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi roaming will be based on the WBA’s Next Generation Hotspot program and the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Passpoint certification technology.

Boingo, which has been a member of the WBA since 2008 and has actively participated in the joint industry initiatives so far, will continue to participate, playing an active role in deploying test locations among Boingo-managed hotspots later this year.

Boingo’s vice president of network strategy, Luis-Alfonso Serrano, currently serves on the WBA’s board of directors.

Niels Jonker, Boingo’s CEO, acknowledged that the need for seamless Wi-Fi roaming has finally brought all of the major players together. "This initiative takes the important first steps to alleviate network congestion and improve the end-user experience by enabling a world that simplifies connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots," he said, adding that Boingo is committed to furthering the work undertaken by the GSMA and WBA.

To date, the Wi-Fi roaming initiative has identified and agreed to developing a standard for authenticating mobile devices on Wi-Fi hotspots, automatically and securely. The initiative will now work toward aligning guidelines on security, billing, data offload, device implementation and network selection to create a consistent solution for GSMA and WBA members.

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