Wireless Broadband Alliance announces operators for Wi-Fi hotspot trials

BT, Sky, Everything Everywhere and TalkTalk will join the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) trial to improve access to Wi-Fi hotspots

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has announced the list of operators set to take part in its next-generation hotspot (NGH) trials later this year.

BT, Sky (which owns The Cloud Wi-Fi network) and TalkTalk have signed up as the representatives of UK internet service providers (ISPs).

Orange, along with T-Mobile partnership Everything Everywhere, is acting on behalf of mobile operators.

The trials, which have been confirmed for the fourth quarter of 2012, will use Passpoint equipment approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance. 

This hardware allows users to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots without having to fill in a username and/or password. So doing enables the user to move between connections more easily, as well as discover ones they are entitled to use automatically.

Phase one of the trial ensured users could get their Wi-Fi connections from one operator, but the upcoming trial is to test gaining internet access from a variety of network providers. 

It will include notifications for the best hotspot tariff to get for your mobile device, as well as pop-ups to set up a one-off connection in a much simpler way.

Consistent billing between operators will be tested, as well as different authentication processes, both SIM-based for mobile phones and non-SIM for tablets, laptops and older phones that wouldn’t be compatible.

“Growing mobile data usage is driving a surge of operator interest in public Wi-Fi,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA.

"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.

“By employing simple connectivity, open standards and global operator relationships, public Wi-Fi now has the same crucial ingredients that made cellular technologies such a massive success. 

"Many of the world’s largest operators are now set to put the first standards-based hotspot equipment through its paces in the most extensive trials ever conducted.”

As well as the operators, the WBA confirmed the suppliers providing equipment for the trials, which includes Aruba Networks, Cisco, Ericsson and Juniper.

Sole Wi-Fi providers have also supported the upcoming trial. Senior vice-president of business and corporate development at Boingo, Luis-Alfonso Serrano, said NGH could cause a seismic shift in opportunity for Wi-Fi operators.

“These trials will usher in a new era of wireless cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of consumers worldwide," said Serrano.

"Ensuring that mobile customers can get connected on their favourite devices wherever and whenever they want, without having to worry about authentication or billing is fundamental to simplifying access for users and enabling mobile data offload for carriers.”

The trials will run from mid-October until mid-December and, if all is successful, the WBA hopes for deployments of NGH in the first half of 2013.

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