Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) introduced a bevy of new software features for iOS 7 on Monday at its its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, but among the ones it didn't spend a lot of time talking about is support for the Hotspot 2.0 standard, which should make it easier for iOS devices to connect to certified and secure W-Fi hotspots. The standard could help wireless carriers offload traffic from their cellular networks to Wi-Fi networks.
Although Apple executives didn't discuss the feature, Apple's support for the standard could help it gain mainstream traction.
Last year the Wi-Fi Alliance's Certified Passpoint program launched with a broad set of approved network gear. Mobile devices that are Passpoint-certified can work and roam on the Hotspot 2.0 standard. The standard lets certified devices automatically find and log onto compatible Wi-Fi access points.
In January AT&T (NYSE:T) launched an international roaming program that was the first to automatically connect customers to Wi-Fi hotspots via SIM authentication when roaming abroad, one of the key features of the Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) program. NGH protocols use Passpoint-certified gear running on the Hotspot 2.0 standard.
Under NGH protocols, which a number of carriers are testing, Passpoint-certified phones that access Passpoint-certified network equipment will know which cell tower they are connected to. Carriers can set rules that would push cellular traffic from the macro network onto NGH Wi-Fi hotspots if a phone is connected to a congested tower or a particular tower at a certain time of day when network congestion is high. For customers, their phones will be able to jump onto the best network available, whether that be Wi-Fi or the cellular macro network, without them having to actively switch networks.
AT&T is expected to be a leading player in the program, though other carriers involved include China Mobile, KT, NTT DoCoMo and France Telecom Orange. The technology is expected to begin to be widely deployed starting next year.
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