Boingo: Carrier deployments of Hotspot 2.0 are still 12-18 months away

Boingo Wireless CEO David Hagan thinks that carrier deployments of Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi are still a year to 18 months away, pushing back the timeframe for when moving between mobile networks and Wi-Fi networks will be more seamless.

Hagan made the comments at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference this week. According to Light Reading, he said he thinks a number of carriers will trial the technology with a subset of their customers soon, but wider deployments will take more time.

"It'll take one rabbit, one first mover, then the whole market will move," he said. "We can do side bets on who we think the first mover will be. But, even from a carrier perspective, I don't think it's a question of if, but when."

Hotspot 2.0 is an interoperable Wi-Fi authentication and handoff technology that enables automatic, seamless data roaming between Wi-Fi hotspots and cellular networks. The Wi-Fi Alliance offers a certification program for Hotspot 2.0 devices under its Passpoint brand. Devices that pass this certification testing can be referred to as "Passpoint devices." Because Passpoint certification is based on the Wi-Fi Alliance Hotspot 2.0 specification, one tends to see the terms "Passpoint" and "Hotspot 2.0" used interchangeably, though that is not technically accurate. Hotspot 2.0 has an access point technology counterpart called Next Generation Hotspot (NGH). 

No U.S. carrier has officially implemented a Hotspot 2.0 strategy, though some, including AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), have expressed support for the technology. Indeed, as GigaOM notes, the Wi-Fi Alliance started certifying Hotspot 2.0-capable devices under the Passpoint program in the summer of 2012, and hotspot providers have been installing NGH software into their access points since last year. However, at this point, Hotspot 2.0 networks supported by carriers are still in trial mode.

Boingo recently struck a Wi-Fi offloading agreement with Verizon (NYSE:VZ); Boingo said it now counts Wi-Fi offload agreements with three of the nation's four Tier 1 wireless carriers. At the conference, Hagan said most carriers today though are still heavily focused on using Distributed Antenna Systems to alleviate network congestion rather than Wi-Fi offloading. Boingo has a number of agreements with wireless carriers to build their DAS networks.

Hagan said more Wi-Fi offloading from carriers is coming, though many will not say when. "They don't have clear strategies. Depending on which department we talk to, they have different perspectives--some are bullish, some are not," he said. "To me, that says it's going to be another year or so before it comes to fruition."

For more:
- see this Light Reading article
- see this GigaOM article 

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