Ruckus helps San Francisco, San Jose launch public Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi service

Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi technology now has a large-scale municipal footprint in San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., thanks to the efforts of both cities in partnership with equipment vendor Ruckus Wireless and Global Reach, which is providing device provisioning and unified authentication services.

Both cities have existing public Wi-Fi networks in locations such as their busy downtown areas, which use Ruckus equipment, but now they have added Hotspot 2.0 roaming and encryption capabilities.

Dave Wright, technical marketing engineer at Ruckus, told FierceWirelessTech the upgrade affects some 350-400 access points (APs) in San Jose and 80-100 APs in San Francisco. He said the Hotspot 2.0 service has undergone testing in both cities for the past six months.

Users can register for the free Bay Area Wi-Fi Hotspot 2.0 service, which will have its own unique SSID, or opt to remain on the existing, unencrypted service. Guests who register and are provisioned with a Hotspot 2.0 credential can automatically and securely connect to either of the cities' WLAN infrastructures whenever they are in range. Wright observed that the Bay Area Hotspot 2.0 is unique in that it is open to everyone with a supported device.

However, devices that can be used with the upgraded service are currently restricted to Hotspot 2.0-enabled (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS7 devices (iPhone 5/5s/5c, iPad 3, iPad Mini, iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, iPod Touch fifth generation) as well as Apple laptops running OS X Mavericks.

"With Release 1 of Hotspot 2.0, which is what we have available today, there wasn't a standardized way of provisioning a credential to a client," Wright said. Hence, though some 350 non-Apple devices support Hotspot 2.0, Release 1, there is no easy way to provision those with a non-cellular, non-SIM credential.

However, Apple enhanced its existing mobile configuration profiles to support Hotspot 2.0. "That allows us to create a mobile config profile and put it on the splash page. Then when a user selects and downloads it, it automatically installs the credential and all a user has to do is accept it," Wright said.

He is hopeful that Samsung and other Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android-based device manufacturers will offer a Hotspot 2.0 provisioning capability in the near future. Wright added that Release 2 of Hotspot 2.0, slated for release in early fall, specifically addresses the provisioning issue as well as operator policy.

Since Hotspot 2.0 technology enables seamless roaming between Wi-Fi networks and also enables seamless data roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, both San Francisco and San Jose are actively soliciting Wi-Fi roaming agreements, which they hope will be simplified through their adoption of Hotspot 2.0.

"We're pushing the industry a little bit by having that roaming feature between San Francisco and San Jose," said Vijay Sammeta, San Jose CIO.

He noted other potential Wi-Fi roaming partners might include cellular operators as well as cable operators, the latter which have been aggressively building up their Wi-Fi footprints to complement their broadband offerings and provide options for users who want to offload their costly cellular data traffic onto free or less-expensive Wi-Fi services.

He said hotels and other hospitality businesses might be interested in Hotspot 2.0 roaming partnerships as well. Such collaborations could be used to attract visitors to San Jose, bringing additional tax revenues to the city. "Hotspot 2.0 is a great way to implement a sharing economy around wireless," Sammeta said.

Flavio Aggio, CTO for San Francisco's technology department, said the new Hotspot 2.0 capability will drive "more peering with other network and authentication providers, which will allow us to realize our collective vision for global Wi-Fi roaming."

Sammeta said he expects Hotspot 2.0 will help resurrect municipal Wi-Fi networks, which have been through a boom-and-bust cycle, particularly when ad-supported networks failed to pan out as hoped. "There's a lot of ways to monetize municipal networks now, and Hotspot 2.0 adds a foundational layer to that monetization," he said.

For more:
- see this joint release

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