Passpoint will create better Wi-fi user experience
HotSpot 2.0, which was recently re-named Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint by the Wi-Fi Alliance, has the potential to make a big impact on the mobile connectivity landscape. The new approach to public Wi-Fi access is aimed at greatly improving the Wi-Fi user experience.
Part of the movement is a certification process for existing hotspots and technology.
The approach was also designed to remove the cumbersome barriers commonly associated with Wi-Fi connections and limitations by completely automating network discovery, authentication, and roaming. A potential boon to operators and subscribers, HotSpot 2.0 promises to alleviate mobile operator infrastructure costs by offloading data, voice, and video traffic, and giving subscribers a more robust mobile experience in terms of seamless connectivity, better battery efficiency, and decreased data costs.
Recently, Informa Telecoms & Media predicted hotspots to number 5.8 million by 2015, or more than triple the amount of hotspots from 2011. Many of those deployments are expected to be near large, public outdoor areas, such as parks and tourist attractions, as well as airports and other transportation hubs. Now that hotspots are poised to become ubiquitous, they are an opportunity operators can’t miss.
MSOs mull HotSpot 2.0
The cable industry is also embarking upon the HotSpot 2.0 project. Cable operators are turning to hotspots to increase their Wi-Fi footprints. Heavy Reading estimates that five of the top six cable providers in the nation, which operate under the CableWiFi alliance, have spent more than $175 million on deploying over 150,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. The roaming agreement allows customers to connect to other providers’ hotspots, without requiring customer login or network preference changes. Cable operators, as well as wireless service providers, will need the HotSpot 2.0 project to help accommodate the growing number of users and devices connected to wireless networks.
Because of the growing demand for mobile Internet, operators stand to benefit by including enhanced Wi-Fi services in their core offerings. HotSpot 2.0 will enable subscribers to connect to hotspots without manual authentication.
Automated connection processes will free up operators to focus on more important aspects of their service offerings, such as mobile Internet, application support, and billing and contract management. By incorporating the technology into their core offerings, operators will be able to worry less about authentication and administration.
HotSpot 2.0 also has the potential to empower subscribers to roam seamlessly between multiple operator networks, casting a wider net of coverage no matter where the subscriber is. Similar to getting off a plane after an international flight and having your mobile device connect to the local carrier, the goal is to make Wi-Fi connectivity as seamless as cellular coverage.
But with this potential comes a challenge – roaming between different networks requires mutual roaming agreements from operators. These agreements cover interoperability authentication, billing, and reconciliation methodologies. Roaming agreements are based on a single, common protocol. HotSpot 2.0 technology will provide that protocol to operators.
Mobile devices drive Wi-Fi use
Much of the mobile data traffic growth – the growth that bogs down networks and necessitates Wi-Fi offloading and backhaul – is due to the growth in usage of mobile devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. As such, subscribers demand for network bandwidth has risen. A study by Wakefield Research in 2012, on behalf of the Wi-Fi Alliance, found Wi-Fi to be an important consideration for mobile subscribers. 87 percent of respondents would like greater Wi-Fi availability for their devices, while 70 percent said they would switch from their current provider to a provider who offered HotSpot 2.0 connectivity. Operators that fail to realize the potential of HotSpot 2.0 will miss out on the opportunities to offer location-based services and offerings, service agreement upsells, and other forms of revenue generation.
In the evolving wireless landscape, it is vital for operators to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to maximizing quality of experience and delivering innovative services. This means a more efficient infrastructure, innovative offerings, and more functionalities and network capabilities that are non-intrusive to a subscribers’ experience. Those improvements, in turn, will allow for happier subscribers, cost-savings, and competitive advantages.
For operators holding off on HotSpot 2.0 deployments until the market is more mature with standards, they must still begin to think about their strategies now, at the start of the growth curve, whether it’s in terms of Wi-Fi access points or infrastructure upgrades. There is no question that HotSpot 2.0 represents an important step in simplifying Wi-Fi connectivity, and operators waiting until competing deployments of the technology on a commercial scale may be already lagging behind. ■