Light Reading
WiFi is increasingly ubiquitous, but it can be a challenge to enable users to roam between 802.11x wireless networks.

WiFi Roaming: The Technical Considerations

Steve Livingston
2/7/2014
50%
50%

The vision for WiFi 2.0 or next-generation hotspots (NGH), as outlined by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and noted in previous blog entries, is for WiFi roaming to become truly interoperable, whereby end users can seamlessly roam between WiFi networks and providers. (See Commercial Opportunities in the 'Internet Anywhere' Space and WiFi 2.0: Roaming Holds the Key.)

For this to happen, "there needs to be standardisation across all elements involved -- from mobile device, to access point, to service provider," the WBA points out. "In order for Wi-Fi roaming to become a truly disruptive innovation, there needs to be very little fragmentation in deployments. Wi-Fi service providers, mobile service providers and hardware manufacturers must all work to the same guidelines and standards."

However, the reality is that ubiquity is still a long way off. There are multiple providers, multiple standards, and a mix of legacy and NGH infrastructure. Support for the 802.1x/EAP standard is growing, but it's still limited, given that infrastructure rip-and-replace projects are costly and happen slowly.

Market success for this vision requires a solution that will span multiple generations of WiFi networks and can leverage the world's current supply.

To facilitate global WiFi roaming today, legacy infrastructure needs to work like NGH infrastructure, and NGH needs to work like legacy. Both must be accessible in a common format. This means that interim solutions are now critical to bridge the gap and provide customers with a WiFi 2.0-like experience today and into the foreseeable future.

What kinds of things does a bridging solution need to consider? In order to roam between networks and providers (WiFi and cellular), operators need to achieve three crucial transactions seamlessly -- authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA). It is crucial for operators to be able to manage subscribers effectively by seamlessly authenticating and authorizing them every time they log on to a network. However, mobile network operators (MNOs) traditionally have not been able to authenticate WiFi access at the device level. The majority of WiFi networks support only WISPr v1.0, and this requires authentication to be performed using remote authentication dial-in user service.

Device-based AAA (DBA) solutions (as used by iPass) provide an EAP-SIM experience over today's WISPr network by translating WiFi credentials from subscribed devices into a device identity within the network services fabric. By automating access and authentication and securely relating the data session to the mobile subscriber's cellular identity, a DBA solution frees MNOs from entering cumbersome usernames and passwords. These solutions are interoperable with GSM, CDMA, or LTE operational and business support systems. They emulate an international mobile subscriber identity for GMA networks and a mobile identification number for CDMA networks. This means that a mobile device identifier, not a person or user, is the common element to provisioning, authorizing, and charging for services across different networks.

This kind of bridging technology is a game changer bringing the legacy and NGH WiFi worlds together for users while we wait for WiFi 2.0. With this technology, subscribers can effectively experience the concept of 2.0 earlier than the infrastructure is forecast to allow. Operators should be keenly tuned into this opportunity to protect their subscriber base from seeking competitive offerings from players that can bundle all device types (including WiFi-only ones) on to a single roaming plan.

— Steve Livingston, Senior VP, Open Mobile Exchange, iPass

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
MKassner
50%
50%
MKassner,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/11/2014 | 7:42:36 AM
Why is it needed?
With LTE and other wireless networks, I am curious as to why Wi-Fi has to follow suit? I do not see the business plan for it. And perchance, is Wi-Max being conveniently forgotten by marketers. 
Phil_Britt
50%
50%
Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/9/2014 | 10:41:52 AM
Not surprising
The handoff between Wi-Fi and network service (as in leaving a coffee shop with Wi-Fi) is shaky at best, too. So it's not surprising that interoperability between different Wi-Fi providers is several years off. This won't change until the providers see a common benefit in working together. That is certainly not likely to happen any time soon.
pzernik
50%
50%
pzernik,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/8/2014 | 7:58:32 PM
Re: 802.11 standards?
It should also be possible for carriers to share the infrastructure, only authenticate their subscribers, and have different "splash screens" for their customers.  Broadcast pay-per-view services in a venue/sports arena type scenario should be very profitable.  We will see how this takes off.
jiflorwi
50%
50%
jiflorwi,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/8/2014 | 8:25:45 AM
Re: 802.11 standards?
802.11v and r address physical layer issues associated with wi-fi roaming by allowing the network to inform the device on preferences and options for a graceful physical layer roam - which includes shared credentials and state - but is limited to the existing AAA for that network.  Wi-Fi 2.0 - hotspot - addresses the actual AAA transaction and how it is authenticated - without the user being involved.  No username or password is entered - the network discovers you.  Moreover - the autentication can be shared globally with traditional 3g/4g subscriber data bases and support roaming between mutiple networks.   It is a unified AAA accorss technologies.
Steve Livingston iPass
50%
50%
Steve Livingston iPass,
User Rank: Blogger
2/7/2014 | 6:37:45 PM
Re: 802.11 standards?
Yes, you are correct. While support for 802.1x / EAP is growing, it is still limited to a small number of devices. Market success for Wi-Fi roaming requires a solution that will span multiple generations of Wi-Fi networks, leveraging the world's supply. The ultimate goal in launching an international Wi-Fi roaming service is to provide access to the most broad and meaningful Wi-Fi footprint possible in a simple and easy-to-use manner. There is a significant installed base of legacy Wi-Fi hotspots that the iPass device-based AAA solution can leverage to help bolster the market for device-based AAA Wi-Fi roaming services, helping to make Wi-Fi roaming widely available.

 
macemoneta
50%
50%
macemoneta,
User Rank: Moderator
2/7/2014 | 1:35:50 PM
802.11 standards?
Isn't WiFi roaming the purpose of 802.11k and 802.11r? Some mobile devices already support these standards.
More Blogs from Column
Defining SDN realistically will help carriers cut through the hype, says Sunil Khandekar, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent's Nuage Networks.
They can go from also-rans to leaders -- if they don't mess up.
The benefits of SDN are hard to grasp because they're so big. But NFV provides a nice, finite-value proposition.
Intensive end-to-end test and measurement is essential to ensure the smooth rollout of new services like VoLTE.
European Union roaming regulations are opening the doorway to an enhanced consumer experience and higher market growth.
Flash Poll
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed NFV-Based Business Services by RAD

7|18|14   |   5:38   |   (0) comments


With the ETSI-approved Distributed NFV PoC running in the background, RAD's CEO, Dror Bin, talks about why D-NFV makes compelling sense for service providers, and about the dollars and cents RAD is putting behind D-NFV.
LRTV Custom TV
MRV Accelerating Packet Optical Convergence

7|15|14   |   6:06   |   (0) comments


Giving you network insight to make your network smarter.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV-Enabled Ethernet for Generating New Revenues

7|15|14   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Cyan's Planet Orchestrate allows service providers and their end-customers to activate software-based capabilities such as firewalls and encryption on top of existing Ethernet services in just minutes.
LRTV Custom TV
Symkloud NVF-Ready Video Transcoding, Big Data

7|9|14   |   3:41   |   (0) comments


Kontron and ISV partner Vantrix demonstrate high-performance video transcoding and data analytic solutions on same 2U standard platform that is ready for SDN and NFV deployments made by mobile, cable and cloud operators.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Evolving Role of Hybrid Video for Competitive Success

7|4|14   |   4:09   |   (0) comments


At Huawei's Global Analysts Summit in Shenzhen, China, Steven C. Hawley from TV Strategies speaks to us about the evolving role of hybrid video for competitive success.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How CSPs Leverage Big Data in the Digital Economy

7|4|14   |   4:48   |   (2) comments


Justin van der Lande from Analysys Mason shares with us his views on how telecom operators can leverage customer asset monetization with big data. His discusses the current status of big data applications and the challenges and opportunities for telecom operators in the digital economy era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accelerator for Digital Business Future Oriented BSS

7|4|14   |   3:08   |   (0) comments


Mobile and internet are becoming intertwined; IT and CT are integrating; and leading CSPs have begun to transform to information service and entertainment providers. How should the BSS system evolve to enable this transformation? Karl Whitelock, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, shares his views.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Orange Tunisia Discusses Multi-Band Antenna With EasyRET Solution

7|4|14   |   2:45   |   (0) comments


As new site acquisition becomes more difficult, Orange Tunisia has requested multi-band antenna to support UMTS and LTE innovation. Some things considered include reducing the cost of antenna maintenance and having high reliability antenna and EasyRET solution.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How Telefonica Spain Considers Antenna Selection for LTE Network Deployment

7|4|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Tony Conlan, Global CTO of RAN, Telefonica, shares his opinion on antennas in LTE network deployment: Tower space is the premier requirement on antennas; reliability is important to reduce OPEX; and EasyRET solution will be helpful for antenna maintenance.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
dtac Thailand: Multi-band Antenna & Capacity Solution for a Better MBB Experience

7|3|14   |   3:45   |   (0) comments


With the development of LTE, tower space and load are limited for new antenna, but users' capacity requirements are growing fast. To provide a better MBB experience, Panya Vechbanyongratana from dtac Thailand shared his experiences and antenna requirements.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE Panel: Network of the Future

7|2|14   |   1:00:57   |   (0) comments


Full-length video of the ATIS Panel Discussion: 'How Far Away Is the Network of the Future & What Does It Look Like?' from the Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago.
LRTV Custom TV
Redknee Supports BH Telecom With Redknee Unified

7|2|14   |   6.14   |   (0) comments


Lucas Skoczkowski, CEO of Redknee, and Amir Orucevic, Director BH Mobile, discuss how the benefits of the Redknee Unified suite of products provide BH Telecom with innovation and leadership in the market, with the flexibility to launch services faster to the market, provide new and compelling promotions and pricing models, and combine services in order to drive ...
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
Infographics
Allot's latest MobileTrends Charging Report shows that value-based pricing plans are up from 35% in 2011 to 85% in 2014.
Hot Topics
Microsoft to Axe 12,500 Ex-Nokia Employees
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 7/17/2014
GM: 10 Car Models on Road With AT&T's LTE
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 7/18/2014
Have IBM & Apple Partnered Their Way to Cloud Leadership?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 7/18/2014
Analytics, Security Key to Apple, IBM Tie-Up
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 7/16/2014
The Municipal Menace?
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 7/22/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed