Hotspot 2.0 is all about facilitating the user experience in service provider Wi-Fi. This includes an automatic discovery and network selection followed by a secure and seamless user device connection to the carrier Wi-Fi network.
Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint™ was launched by Wi-Fi Alliance as an industry-wide solution to streamline network access in Wi-Fi hotspots and eliminate the need for users to find and authenticate a network each time they connect. The Passpoint certification is based on the Hotspot 2.0 specification providing the underlying technical documentation developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance members.
At the same time the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) – of which Aptilo is a member – launched their Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) program, which primarily focuses on interoperability between service provider Wi-Fi networks for roaming. Together these two initiatives aim to create a blueprint for advanced service provider Wi-Fi networks with an enhanced end-user experience for network selection, service authentication, security and roaming.
The ingredients of a Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi network
The ingredients of a Hotspot 2.0 service provider Wi-Fi network include:
- An IEEE 802.11u-enabled Wi-Fi network that broadcasts capabilities of the network
- An IEEE 802.1x-enabled Wi-Fi network with WPA2-Enterprise air interface encryption (making the radio link as secure as in 3G and LTE)
- Support for EAP-SIM/AKA SIM-based or EAP-TLS/TTLS-based authentication (making the authentication as secure and seamless as in 3G and LTE)
- Facilitator for Wi-Fi roaming and home operator billing
Aptilo SMP’s role in a Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi service
The Aptilo Service Management Platform™ with the Aptilo SMP SIM Authentication™ capabilities provides all the necessary back-end service management functionalities supporting a Hotspot 2.0 and Next Generation Hotspot Wi-Fi network. These functions are also available in the Aptilo SMP 3GPP AAA+™, supporting scenarios where the Wi-Fi service is integrated into the 3G or LTE (EPC) mobile core.
The first wave of Hotspot2.0 (Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint™) equipment is hitting the market now. All leading Wi-Fi vendors have their latest Wi-Fi RAN equipment certified and the new Hotspot 2.0 capabilities will become available when deploying new Wi-Fi access networks from now on. You will find the most current list of equipment with Hotspot 2.0 support here. There is obviously a large installed base of legacy Wi-Fi radio networks that will take some time and require some investments to upgrade with equipment supporting the latest Hotspot 2.0 standards so gradual support over time is to be expected.
The important support for Hotspot 2.0 in devices
Equally important, the first line of end-user devices with Hotspot 2.0 capabilities is now becoming available from e.g. Samsung and LG. Apple has recently enabled 802.11u support in their latest iOS7 release. With the average turnaround time for end-user equipment we can foresee a gradual increase of Hotspot 2.0-capable devices as well within the next few years.
The Wi-Fi Alliance Hotspot 2.0 specifications, the WBA’s work with NGH, the latest 3GPP standards for Wi-Fi integration to the mobile core and CableLabs’ Wi-Fi roaming specifications can all be regarded as complementary to one another and serving different industry needs. While Hotspot 2.0 primarily focuses on a seamless network selection over a secure Wi-Fi connection, the 3GPP efforts concentrate on a seamless integration of Wi-Fi access into the mobile core. This enables the mobile network operator (MNO) the possibility to offer their subscriber base a more streamlined mobile data service, including uniform authentication, policy and charging aspects between Wi-Fi and 3G/LTE devices.
For Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and Multi System Operators (MSO), the seamless user experience and the additional security that EAP-based authentication methods and 802.1x support provide is today necessary for most operators to support. Neither of these features are, however, mutually exclusive to Hotspot 2.0 and can be implemented independent of the Hotspot 2.0 standard. In fact, EAP-SIM/AKA and 802.1x are in operation by a number of operators globally including many of Aptilo’s customers.
Enabling support for devices without a SIM card (e.g. the majority of tablets and laptops), or SIM-based devices not yet supporting EAP-SIM authentication, is essential, and many operators are quickly realizing they must serve these groups of devices. The same level of security and seamlessness can be solved by other EAP methods such as TTLS or TLS which are also part of the Hotspot 2.0 specification. Learn more about how Aptilo’s innovative features even can enable 3GPP Wi-Fi access for devices that are not capable to perform EAP-SIM/AKA.
Hotspot 2.0 will mean a paradigm shift in roaming
Roaming and automatic network selection processes are two other areas that Hotspot 2.0 will facilitate. Wi-Fi services will work instantly if a roaming agreement is in place between the visited network and the home operator. However, roaming agreements do not have to be exclusively between operators. They can also be between operators and other network owners including hotels, airports, retailers, wholesale providers, etc. This opens up a larger source of revenue for owners of premium locations. It also broadens the mobile operator’s base of users.