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WBA assumes control of OpenRoaming standard

Association set up to enable collaboration between service providers, technology companies and organisations in wireless industry to manage Cisco-produced technology for seamless Wi-Fi onboarding

Intending to accelerate the broad adoption of the Cisco-developed for Wi-Fi onboarding, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is to take over ownership and management of OpenRoaming as a global wireless industry standard.

Essentially, OpenRoaming is designed to allow devices to automatically connect to Wi-Fi and seamlessly roam from one hotspot to another without the user needing to log in. It is built upon a set of standards and guidelines developed by the WBA and the Wi-Fi Alliance, and will now be adopted as an industry-wide initiative led by the WBA. The standard is said to have seen tremendous growth in the past year, and is expected to play a crucial role in delivering great mobile experiences and ushering in a new era of mobile applications.

OpenRoaming adheres to Wi-Fi certified Passpoint and Wireless Roaming Intermediary Exchange (WRIX) standards. It has been created to help bridge the gap between Wi-Fi and cellular networks and allows users to seamlessly and securely roam between Wi-Fi networks without the use of splash pages or sign-in screens.

This has bene made possible by the coming together of a number of trusted identity providers, allowing users to join any network managed by a federation member. The network is able to automatically authenticate devices by using established identity providers, such as a service provider, device manufacturer, cloud ID or even loyalty memberships. Support for OpenRoaming has been given by the likes of Boingo Wireless, Cisco, GlobalReach Technology, Intel and Korea Telekom.

As a result of the initiative, WBA’s global ecosystem can now integrate OpenRoaming into its technologies, regardless of equipment provider. The WBA says that by unlocking this innovation it is empowering the entire industry to take advantage of seamless and secure roaming so that providers, suppliers and users can embrace new opportunities and enjoy improved Wi-Fi services.

Existing real-life applications include Canary Wharf in London, where OpenRoaming-based Wi-Fi from Cisco has been deployed to support the communication needs of the working and visiting population, improving efficiencies and flexibility of onboarding Wi-Fi for more than 20,000 business people, as well as retailers, bars, cafes, hotels and workspaces.

Going forward, WBA will take full control of the development, promotion and administration of OpenRoaming.

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Announcing the move, Tiago Rodrigues, the alliance’s CEO, said: “OpenRoaming now becomes an open standard, creating a world where Wi-Fi users will be able to move seamlessly from one Wi-Fi network to another without re-registering or signing in.

“As a global wireless industry standard, WBA OpenRoaming will improve Wi-Fi services and availability, making life easier for users, and more efficient for the global mobile and Wi-Fi ecosystem,” he said. “OpenRoaming is now open for business, and I call on anyone with a Wi-Fi network, private or public, coffee shop or sports stadia or any other type of venue, to join our open ecosystem so the service they offer to their users to can be automatic, secure and interoperable, making their networks available to a wider audience.

“There is considerable pull from the industry and our customers, both enterprise and service provider, to automate secure onboarding across multiple verticals,” said Rodrigues. “We knew OpenRoaming would be a game-changing wireless technology, but the support from across the industry has even surpassed our expectations.”

Matt MacPherson, chief technology officer (CTO) at Cisco Wireless, said: “OpenRoaming is vital to unlocking the potential of wireless communications. Cisco has been proud to lead the OpenRoaming efforts, but we believe strongly that the WBA is the right organisation to steward, with neutrality and confidence, such an important industry initiative.

Derek Peterson, CTO at Boingo, said: “OpenRoaming is the latest flavour of Passpoint technology that removes borders between cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity. With the support of the WBA, interoperable roaming will go further and fuel new opportunities for the 5G era. Boingo is an early adopter of OpenRoaming and looks forward to advancing its use cases alongside the WBA.”

Chris Bruce, managing director at GlobalReach Technology, said: “OpenRoaming is the next logical step to offer citizens, employees, customers and business partners access to carrier-grade Wi-Fi networks.”

“With the ever-increasing demand for high-speed internet outpacing the capability and coverage of cellular networks, OpenRoaming is an easy and seamless way to liberate underutilised fibre backhaul capacity for economic and user benefits, and to ensure that the service operator remains in control,” he said. “GlobalReach is proud to be a leader in enabling such roaming and applauds the move by the WBA.”

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