Advanced trials of Next Generation Hotspots slated for Q4

On the heels of the Wi-Fi Alliance's launch of its Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint program, the Wireless Broadband Alliance announced that many of the world's largest operators and vendors have signed up to participate in advanced trials of Next Generation Hotspots (NGH) based on Passpoint equipment.

Using Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint equipment, users will be able to access NGHs without the need for usernames and passwords. The NGH program is expected to encourage roaming relationships among operators domestically and around the world. The WBA said the trials will occur in this year's fourth quarter, and it expects initial NGH deployments to launch in the first half of 2013.

North American operators on the list of 38 participants for the advanced NGH trials include AT&T, Boingo Wireless, Shaw Communications and Time Warner Cable.

The WBA's advanced NGH trials will repeat the basic phase one tests that occurred earlier this year, but rather than relying upon prototype equipment the fourth-quarter trials will incorporate newly certified Wi-Fi Passpoint equipment. The Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint program launched this week with a broad set of approved devices that be will used by the Wi-Fi Alliance as a test bed for interoperability assessments of future Passpoint devices.

The WBA said its planned hotspot trials will also seek to verify more advanced operator billing and connectivity policies in addition to extensive authentication methods. "The trials will test operator-to-operator billing procedures to ensure that they are compensated when carrying each other's subscribers. They will test features that allow users to change their hotspot subscription package to ensure they're receiving the best deal or, where they do not have automatic access through their operator, to simply set up a connection with the hotspot provider directly through a popup option," said the group.

Among other things, the trials will test a variety of authentication methods--including SIM-based for smartphones as well as non-SIM based for tablets, laptops and legacy phones that cannot support SIM authentication. The methods to be tested are EAP-TLS, EAP-TTLS, EAP-SIM and EAP-AKA.

"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 later this year," said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA.

The WBA also announced that it has gained 12 new members, including Airsense Wireless, Amdocs, Bell Mobility, China Unicom, Hewlett Packard, Shaw Communications, TalkTalk Communications and TIM Brasil, bringing WBA membership to 82.

For more:
- see this WBA release and this release

Related articles:
Wi-Fi Alliance certifies first products for Passpoint reference set
Study: Easier Wi-Fi access could lure smartphones, tablet users
Ruckus CEO: Wi-Fi offloading demands creativity
Wi-Fi is more important than ever, but standards are lacking
Boingo CTO: Cellular-to-Wi-Fi roaming to be ready by early 2013
GSMA, WBA partner to ease roaming between mobile, Wi-Fi networks

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