AT&T, Cisco promise Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi roaming for MWC attendees

The backers of Hotspot 2.0 want the mobile industry to know that the technology is ready for prime time, and there probably is no better way to make that point than to deploy Hotspot 2.0 for automatic use by at least a portion of the attendees at next week's Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona.

AT&T (NYSE:T) is collaborating with a host of other mobile operators as well as vendors Cisco and Accuris Networks to bring the service to fruition, if only for a week and only within the confines of the Fira Gran Via convention grounds.

In addition to AT&T, participating service providers in the demo include Bell Mobility, China Mobile, Korea Telecom, MEO, Mobily, NTT DoCoMo, PCCW-HKT, SK Telecom and True. AT&T negotiated with its roaming partners worldwide, including the participating mobile operators, to add Wi-Fi roaming to their roaming agreements.

"Customers of the participating mobile operators with the latest compatible phones will securely and automatically authenticate onto the Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi network when they walk through the conference doors, just as easily as they roamed onto the mobile network when they landed in Barcelona," said a release from AT&T, Cisco and Accuris.

Cisco is providing the carrier-grade Wi-Fi network, including Passpoint access points and controllers certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The platform uses self-optimizing network (SON) technology.

Accuris Networks is responsible for enabling MWC attendees to securely and automatically connect onto the Wi-Fi network. Its AccuRoam platform will enable authentication and billing management via SIM cards, just as they are in the case of cellular-only roaming.

"As the Wi-Fi and cellular worlds merge, developing a common authentication mechanism with standard roaming agreements is a natural next step," said JR Wilson, vice president of partnerships and alliances at AT&T Mobility and chairman of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

The companies noted that once users can securely roam onto Wi-Fi as easily as they do onto cellular networks, operators will be positioned to begin marketing new services that take advantage of indoor location information and analytics uniquely provided by indoor small cells.

In related news, the WBA last week unveiled what it calls a comprehensive definition of carrier Wi-Fi, which it noted has been loosely used as an industry buzzword but with no universally recognized meaning.

"Achieving a common vision for the future of carrier Wi-Fi and what needs to be put in place to make it a reality is imperative," said Philippe Lucas, senior vice president of standardization and ecosystems development at Orange, which led the initiative along with Ruckus Wireless.

The WBA guidelines for carrier Wi-Fi capabilities address requirements such as consistent experience, fully integrated end-to-end network and network management, which addresses quality, security and manageability.

The WBA said it will also send the paper to other industry bodies for their feedback. The alliance has started initial consultations with industry bodies including 3GPP, the Broadband Forum, GSMA, NGMN and the Wi-Fi Alliance regarding the carrier Wi-Fi definition.

For more:
- see this multi-company release
- see this dual-organization release
- see this WBA release

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