OPLIN 4Cast #280: Wi-Fi may be getting Passpoint

The continuing explosive growth in the amount of data being transmitted to and from mobile devices is causing headaches for wireless carriers. One option for dealing with this demand is to offload as much data as possible onto Wi-Fi access points, which are more efficient than connecting devices through 3G, 4G, LTE, or other cell phone technologies. This year, the Wi-Fi Alliance is working to develop a standard called Passpoint that would let mobile devices connect automatically to Wi-Fi hotspots, possibly including hotspots in public libraries, just as they now automatically connect to cell phone towers. How this would work is not exactly clear yet – would carriers pay libraries for handling some of their customer traffic, for instance? – but it’s a development that certainly bears watching.

  • How Passpoint could make Wi-Fi hotspots more like cellular data services (Network World/Brad Reed)  “Known as the Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint program, the initiative essentially creates a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and allows you to access any in your area that take part in the program. What’s more, any hotspots that take part in Passpoint will allow you to connect without entering in any login or billing information since the program supports Subscriber Identity Module (SIM)-based authentication that cellular networks currently use to grant users seamless handoffs between cell sites.”
  • Wi-Fi Passpoint standard could end hotspot sign-on hassles (Computerworld/Stephen Lawson)  “The most obvious advantage of the Passpoint standard may be doing away with the browser ‘splash screens’ that greet visitors to most public hotspots. Instead, admission to the network will happen in the background, through a variety of mechanisms that can include an SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card and certificate-based methods.”
  • Passpoint: a recipe for wider Wi-Fi (CEA Digital Dialogue/Rob Pegoraro)  “There’s a precedent for this: over the past few years, AT&T has been shifting a steadily increasing amount of data to Wi-Fi, thanks to the ability of iOS and Android devices to switch automatically to its hotspots whenever one’s in range. But that is a single-company effort. Passpoint/Hotspot 2.0 would widen the scope of participating access points – and it shouldn’t cost you extra.”
  • With new standard, Wi-Fi could become as widespread as cellular (Popular Science/Stewart Wolpin)  “In a Passpoint and Super [long-range] Wi-Fi world, a user within a short drive of a city or town could have instant, ultrafast Internet access without having to rely on cellular service. Business travelers could use their laptops without cellular USB dongles, tablets wouldn’t need power-hungry 3G and 4G radios, and a Skype account could practically replace a phone line.”

Traffic fact:
According to a recent study [pdf] by Informa Telecoms & Media, over 80% of smartphone data traffic in Britain already uses Wi-Fi instead of the cellular networks.

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