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AT&T: Hotspot 2.0 Integral to Multimode Small Cells

Sarah Thomas
2/26/2014
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BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress -- AT&T sees Hotspot 2.0 as an enabler of new WiFi services and an integral part of its multimode small cell strategy, according to its head of network planning.

Speaking at the Wireless Broadband Alliance 's Carrier WiFi conference, collocated with MWC, Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), expounded on AT&T's future plans for WiFi, including those for the emerging standard Hotspot 2.0. (See CTIA: AT&T Works on Wi-Fi Integration.)

WiFi, Why Not?
Kris Rinne, AT&T SVP of network and product planning, explains why the carrier is banking on WiFi in a 4G world.
Kris Rinne, AT&T SVP of network and product planning, explains why the carrier is banking on WiFi in a 4G world.

Hotspot 2.0, also known as Passpoint by the Wi-Fi Alliance (or next-generation hotspot by the type of people who say next-generation), is a technology that automatically connects users to supported WiFi networks without the need to log in or enter credentials. It's been in the works for two years now, but is finally gaining some traction with wireless operators. (See WiFi Roaming: The Technical Considerations and Boingo Expands Hotspot 2.0 to 21 Airports.)

Rinne said AT&T will use Hotspot 2.0 to bring new services across its existing WiFi infrastructure, although she didn't elaborate on what those services might entail. The carrier is trialing the authentication protocol here at the show with attendees on compatible iPhones or Androids, and it plans to include it in its future multimode small cells. (See Carrier WiFi: The Handoff Tradeoff.)

"We've been focused on UMTS/HSPA small cells for enterprise and venue locations, but we are beginning to start testing multi-standard capabilities to have the same box support LTE, multiple bands, and WIFi with Hotspot 2.0 integration," she told attendees. (See AT&T: Multimode Small Cells by Early 2015.)

AT&T is clearly betting big on multimode small cells and has said in the past that all of its future small cells will include WiFi, but Rinne also made it clear that it's looking at each particular location individually. If an enterprise already had a private WiFi network up and running, it might consider a cellular solution. Intelligent network selection will also take into account clients on the device, DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) capabilities, and security, she said. (See WiFi: Small Cells' Trojan Horse? and MWC 2014: Single-Mode 4G Small Cells Ahoy?)

"We are in the very, very early stages in how we look at this and integrate it," Rinne said of the different networks. "There's lots going on in the standards areas in terms of driving those different options."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
2/27/2014 | 6:11:41 PM
Re: Hotspot 2.0 Trial
So Hotspot 2.0 would be something that consumers would get automatically when their Android, iOS, Windows, or MacOS updates?
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 9:39:41 AM
Re: One more piece of very large puzzle
Hypothetically, your bill should be lower because you are on WiFi much more often.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 9:39:10 AM
Re: Hotspot 2.0 Trial
It can be a software update pushed over-the-air. It's still a little clunky, but Cisco tells me they're working on policy for it now, so it'll improve.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
2/26/2014 | 6:08:51 PM
Re: Hotspot 2.0 Trial
Is this something that consumers and carriers can implement in software, or does this require a hardware upgrade?
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/26/2014 | 3:41:52 PM
Re: One more piece of very large puzzle
This idea sounds really great in theory. Everyone who constantly is churning data will want this. I say in theory for now because it seems like this is still a ways out. But I for one would love to be able to have seemless wifi for my devices.

I do wonder how much that is going to cost me - will my bill be even higher than it is right now for this?
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/26/2014 | 10:49:16 AM
Re: One more piece of very large puzzle
Sorry, I meant *own as in you get automically onloaded to the operators WiFi networks, not third parties, but you should also be able to do it on those networks with which an operator has a roaming deal. When I landed in Spain, my phone automatically went on to AT&T's roaming partner here for cellular. The same thing would happen on WiFi under Hotspot 2.0 -- no choosing the network, no password entering.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/26/2014 | 10:43:01 AM
Re: One more piece of very large puzzle
If you are automatically signed onto WiFi networks that aren't your carrier's, how is that different from roaing?  Unless you only get automatically authenticated onto your operator's WiFi network, which seems to me should be able to happen without any special intervention.

Sorry if I'm being thick on this. 
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/26/2014 | 10:40:37 AM
Re: One more piece of very large puzzle
No, that still requires business deals between operators. There is a ton of hype around Hotspot 2.0, but it still seems quite limited to me (and I have another post on that coming soon). Basically, it enables seamless authentication for operators on WiFi footprints, which for consumers means they automatically get on the network with no intervention. For operators, it means more of their customers are likely to use their WiFi by improving the service for them. Maybe they could do location services based on knowing where the AP is too.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/26/2014 | 10:33:53 AM
One more piece of very large puzzle
The small cell/WiFi discussion is always interesting but often a bit confusing and always seems to include a reference to "early days.

Does Hotspot 2.0 enable real WiFi roaming and if so, what are the business arrangements? 
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/26/2014 | 10:29:17 AM
Hotspot 2.0 Trial
Has anyone been taking part in the Hotspot 2.0 trial this week? I have only started recently. Took a bit to set up, but appears to be work as advertised. I'd love some feedback if anyone else has experience with it.
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