Technology

HotSpot 2.0

Making the Wi-Fi Roaming Experience as Secure and Easy to Use as With Cellular Data

Hotspot 2.0 is focused on enabling a mobile device to automatically discover APs that have a roaming arrangement with the user’s home network and then securely connect. This is very much the cellular experience that we all enjoy when getting off an airplane just about anywhere in the world. Wi-Fi roaming would apply anytime a mobile device does not see an AP belonging to its home network provider. A user could roam on a Wi-Fi network that is across town or on the other side of the world. Roaming partners can include MSOs, MNOs, wireline operators, public venues, enterprises, and basically any other entity that has Wi-Fi assets. Roaming can be accomplished with dual mode devices (smartphones) or Wi-Fi-only devices like tablets and laptops.

With Hotspot 2.0, the client device is equipped by an authentication provider with one or more credentials, such as a SIM card, username/password pair, or X.509 certificate. The device can then query Hotspot 2.0 capable APs to see if it belongs to a visited network that supports roaming with the devices home network.

Hotspot 2.0 is a program of the Wi-Fi Alliance, and is supported by the Passpoint(™) certification program which ensures APs and client devices comply with the technical specifications. Hotspot 2.0 capabilities are emerging in a series of releases. Release 1 came out in June 2012 and was focused on automating network discovery/selection, authentication, and over-the-air security. Other releases will follow in the coming years that will add additional capabilities. Mobile devices with Hotspot 2.0 support are now available in the market. While vendors may choose to introduce new models to enable Hotspot 2.0, these capabilities can be added via software updates in most cases.

To enable a compelling roaming experience, groups such as the Wireless Broadband Alliance and CableLabs are working to create frameworks and standards for the linking of various operators’ authentication domains. And a number of companies are interested in providing “roaming hubs’ that would provide an authentication service for Wi-Fi network providers.

The hassles and risks of connecting to public Wi-Fi will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to Hotspot 2.0.