Light Reading

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        ADD A COMMENT
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.
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Column
The web services giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Google might be defining the next generation of 'carrier class' networking technology.
As carriers are partnering with a growing amount of third-party service providers, payments are the next logical step in growing these partnerships.
There are many variants of the CRAN concept, but all have the potential to deliver major capex and opex savings in the network.
The FCC's upcoming 600 MHz spectrum is a novel idea to foster a competitive framework for the future.
Network appliances can play an important role in policy-driven virtualized networks, argues Dan Joe Barry.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Documentaries
PSA: The Perils of a Hyper-Connected Society

7|6|15   |   1:38   |   (0) comments


A public service announcement calling attention to the perils of a hyper-connected society.
LRTV Interviews
Guavus Takes Analytics on the Road

7|6|15   |   4:09   |   (1) comment


Guavus CEO Anukool Lakhina tells Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders how the analytics tools developed for telcos are applicable to the transportation industry.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat Demo

7|2|15   |   10:53   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Nicolas Lemieux demonstrates how Red Hat is driving innovation through open source communities.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat's Approach to OpenStack Adoption

7|2|15   |   5:17   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Radhesh Balakrishnan outlines his company's open source strategy for both enterprises and telcos.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Goes Mobile With vEPC

7|2|15   |   1:12   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown discusses results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade that shows a clear commitment by mobile operators to move quickly to virtual EPC deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Business Sense of SDN

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Results of a Brocade-sponsored survey show that CSPs have a clear sense of SDN use cases but are wrestling with the business case. Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading looks behind the numbers.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

7|2|15   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Forget the usual ten-year cycle for new technologies – NFV will be a core part of CSP networks in five years, based on results of a Brocade-sponsored survey, says Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Gains Traction With CSPs

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro of Heavy Reading analyzes results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade showing that CSPs are getting serious about making the transition to the New IP era.
LRTV Custom TV
It's (Real) Time for Analytics

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Jim Hodges looks at how CSPs say they plan to use analytics to deploy new services in real time as part of The New IP, based on results of a survey sponsored by Brocade.
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (8) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (1) comment


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Equinix walks through the past four digital economy eras from computing to network to connected to today's interconneted world.
Hot Topics
What's a Gigabit Good For?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/1/2015
Colt to Jettison Ailing IT Business
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/30/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
IoT in Action
, 6/30/2015
FCC Chairman Talks Up SDN/NFV
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 7/2/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones