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.)
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