The Alliance takes on its biggest challenge yet: convincing wireless operators to join forces to make Wi-Fi seamless and ubiquitous

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

March 22, 2011

2 Min Read
CTIA 2011: Wi-Fi Alliance Unites Carriers on Hotspots

ORLANDO, Fla. -- International CTIA WIRELESS 2011 -- Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots could be ingraining themselves in wireless operator networks to the point that soon it may be hard to tell the two apart. That's what the Wi-Fi Alliance is hoping, at least, and its announcement Tuesday of a carrier-wide hotspot initiative is a step in that direction. (See Wi-Fi Alliance Forms Operator Hotspot Initiative.)

The initiative, which the Alliance says is one of the most broadly supported activities in its history, is coming out the gate with a formalized set of industry market requirements for a Wi-Fi certified testing program that will address authentication and provisioning of service for public Wi-Fi networks.

Put simply, it will allow consumers to connect to Wi-Fi without the need to sign in, regardless of which carrier owns the hotspot. For wireless operators, it means a more secure, efficient way to dump users off their networks.

"With this program, we're envisioning that your one account with your cellular provider or with a hotspot service account will be honored as you go place to place, even if it's from another service provider," says Wi-Fi Alliance Executive Director Edgar Figueroa.

This means equipment vendors wouldn't have to support multiple standards but could implement one suite of protocols to apply globally.

The Wi-Fi Alliance plans to have the certification program up and running in the first half of 2012.

Why this matters
End users have been expecting a service like this for a long time, Figueroa says. Right now, Wi-Fi usage is becoming more prevalent, but it's also a very fragmented market. Every hotspot requires its own authentication and often a new credit card to sign on.

Even so, wireless operators have been leaning more heavily on Wi-Fi offload as their networks are overwhelmed with data traffic. And, they've been slowly improving the services too. Because of consumer expectations, advances in Wi-Fi technology and exponential data growth, an interoperable service like this is looking increasingly necessary. (See Wireless Operators Embrace Wi-Fi as Their Own.)

"There's been a lot of frustration from end users, so now is the perfect time to come out with a solution to this," Figueroa says. "Service providers took to Wi-Fi. It’s a core service offering, and with this effort, it will bring everyone together."

For more
For more on wireless operators' evolving relationship with Wi-Fi, check out the following stories.

  • NSN Gets Smart With WLAN

  • IEEE to Blend MoCA, Powerline & Wi-Fi

  • WiFi, HomePlug Connect on Smart Grid

  • WiFi Hotzones: AT&T’s Half-Baked Network Savior

  • Wi-Fi Alliance, WiGig Align to Make WiFi Super Fast

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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