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.
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Column
Open is possible, definable and important, because an environment of freedom is a superior construct.
Every component of the smart home ecosystem is changing, creating new opportunities – and challenges – for service providers.
Don't let new technologies and whizz-bang gadgets keep you from respecting those speaking to you and giving them the full attention they deserve.
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.
Flash Poll
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Inaugural Optical Innovation Forum in Nice

9|2|14   |     |   (0) comments


More than 170 attendees from network operators, service providers, analyst firms, and component companies from around the world convened in Nice in June for the inaugural Optical Innovation Forum, co-produced by Huawei and Light Reading.
Wagner’s Ring
Data Centers Drive Telcos Into the Future

8|28|14   |   2:20   |   (2) comments


Data centers are at the heart of key trends driving telecom -- network virtualization, the drive for increased agility, and the need to compete with OTT providers.
LRTV Custom TV
Why SPs Should Consider Cisco's EPN

8|27|14   |   5:40   |   (0) comments


Sultan Dawood from Cisco discusses Cisco's EPN, which enables SPs to build agile and programmable networks delivering new network virtualized services using Cisco's Evolved Services Platform (ESP).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Showcase @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   2.56   |   (0) comments


SoftCOM is Huawei's framework for telecom business and network transformation. Haofei Liu, Solution Marketing Manager, Carrier Business Group, Huawei, showcases Huawei's SoftCOM architecture in this video.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of Integrated Solutions on SoftCOM & NFV Monetization

8|26|14   |   4.43   |   (0) comments


Libin Dai, Director of Integrated Solutions, Carrier Business Group, discusses Huawei's SoftCOM and NFV monetization. Huawei believes that NFV monetization should be service-driven rather than network-driven, and that operators should have network transformation, service transformation and a compatible and collaborative ecosystem in place in order to deploy NFV.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of US NFV Lab on CloudEdge & the Future of NFV

8|26|14   |   4.06   |   (0) comments


Sean Chen, Director of US NFV Lab at Huawei, discusses Huawei's new approach to NFV in open collaboration. Huawei believes that through Proof of Concept tests, it could help operators learn and communicate with the industry more effectively. Sean believes that successful implementation of NFV should have its values reaching to end users and discusses how Huawei's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Highlights @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   3.34   |   (0) comments


At the Big Telecom Event in Chicago Huawei showcases its high-level strategy, the SoftCOM architecture, which helps operators reduce the cost of ownership of their network infrastructure and generate additional revenue in the ICT service environment. Huawei showcases over 30 pilot programs from across the globe, focusing on the industry-leading commercial ...
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX – Live from the Show

8|21|14   |   5:58   |   (0) comments


An overview of VeEX Test and Measurement solutions including TX300S multi-service test set with VeExpress cloud-based management system, UX400 universal modular platform supporting 100G testing, and the redesigned RXT modular platform.
LRTV Custom TV
Transitioning CE 2.0 Networks Into the SDN & NFV Era With Telco Systems

8|19|14   |   5:19   |   (0) comments


Telco Systems' Ariel Efrati (CEO) and Moshe Shimon (VP of Product Management) discuss virtualization and how the company's new Open Metro Edge solution utilizes the SDN and NFV concepts to accelerate and orchestrate service delivery through its innovative product portfolio and software applications.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Myths: Is NFV Still Several Years Away?

8|11|14   |   1:13   |   (0) comments


Some say that NFV (network functions virtualization) is still several years away from being implemented on mobile operator networks. This isn't the case. Operators can get started on their paths to NFV now, as this short video from Skyfire shows.
LRTV Custom TV
A New Security Paradigm in SDN/NFV

7|28|14   |   02:54   |   (0) comments


Paul Shaneck, Global Director Network Solutions for Symantec, discusses the evolving virtualized network, explaining how Symantec is leading the security discussion as it relates to SDN and NFV, and helping to ensure the network is protected and compliant.
LRTV Documentaries
Sprint's Network Evolution

7|24|14   |   14:59   |   (0) comments


Sprint's Jay Bluhm gives a keynote speech at the Big Telecom Event (BTE) about Sprint's network and services evolution strategy, including Spark.
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 23, 2014, Denver, CO
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
A survey conducted by Vasona Networks suggests that 72% of mobile users expect good performance all the time, and they'll blame the network operator when it's not up to par.
Today's Cartoon
Hot Topics
Rogers, Shaw Take Aim at Netflix
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 8/26/2014
Utilities to Pump $11.2B Into Smart Grid – Study
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 8/26/2014
Verizon Launches QR Code Security Solution
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/26/2014
Nokia's Maps Land on Samsung Devices
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 8/29/2014
Verizon to Launch HD VoLTE in 'Coming Weeks'
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 8/26/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed