TIP teams with WBA to tackle Wi-Fi roaming

“This collaboration can enable some very interesting new business cases for many different stakeholders,” WBA CEO Tiago Rodrigues said. (Getty Images)

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) revealed that a yet-to-be-announced OpenWiFi project will adopt the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s (WBA) OpenRoaming standard, a move experts tipped to improve the user experience and enable new business models for operators and enterprise alike.

Introduced in 2020, the OpenRoaming standard unites a broad range of Wi-Fi providers into a single cloud-based federation, allowing users to hop between member networks without having to register or sign-in each time. The standard already has some big-name backers, including AT&T, Boingo, Cisco, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Intel, Orange and Samsung, among others.

TIP isn’t due to officially launch its OpenWiFi initiative until May 12. But Chris Busch, a network engineer at Facebook and co-chair of TIP’s converged wireless project group, told Fierce the announcement with WBA shows there’s already “raw market momentum” behind the creation of an open source Wi-Fi stack.

He added TIP chose to use the OpenRoaming standard because it wanted to ensure a broad spectrum of Wi-Fi providers, including operators, venues, hospitality companies and municipalities, could offer seamless and secure connectivity.

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“That was why OpenWiFi really went towards the WBA OpenRoaming initiative, because it really ticks all those boxes. It understands the relationship of the identity providers, understands how to do federation at scale, understands that Wi-Fi is ubiquitous and Wi-Fi just needs to work natively across all the end user devices regardless of where that Wi-Fi service happens to be,” he explained.

WBA CEO Tiago Rodrigues told Fierce the main focus of OpenRoaming thus far has been “improving the user experience” and making users feel more secure. But he added “there is a second layer behind OpenRoaming that is monetization, and that is attached to QoS and some level of policy” as well as Wi-Fi offload. Busch also highlighted the potential for managed service providers to monetize indoor offerings for office facilities.

“This collaboration can enable some very interesting new business cases for many different stakeholders,” Rodrigues said, adding it will allow them to view and invest in Wi-Fi networks “in a quite different way.”

While OpenRoaming will offer opportunities for new revenue generation, Rodrigues noted OpenWiFi will also open the door to reduced capex and opex. “I see quite an interesting opportunity to somehow open up and reshape many of the business models for public Wi-Fi networks and even private Wi-Fi networks,” he concluded.

Busch said OpenWiFi will sit within TIP’s Open Converged Wireless Project Group. At launch, he said it will include platform options covering both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6, adding TIP is aiming to bring Wi-Fi 6E into the stack later this year.