The next major cellular technology advancement is on its way. Here comes Wi-Fi roaming.
Cellular users often switch between 3G or 4G networks to Wi-Fi to access the internet, especially as cloud services continue to grow in importance. The switch from a cellular service to a Wi-Fi network is not always seamless, especially when it requires first finding a network and then getting through a login screen.
But a group of new cellular technologies, in particular the 3GPP Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) and Hotspot 2.0, will change that with what amounts to Wi-Fi roaming, according to a white paper, “Wi-Fi Roaming – Building on ANDSF and Hotspot2.0,” jointly produced by Alcatel-Lucent and BT.
A definition in terms is in order:
- ANDSF is a cellular technology standard that allows an operator to provide a list of preferred access networks with policies for their use up to the granularity of a single IP address or all traffic for a given public data network.
- Hotspot2.0 is a new Wi-Fi technology standard that allows devices to more easily discover Wi-Fi roaming relationships, determine access point capabilities and loading conditions, and more easily connect to Wi-Fi networks securely.
As the white paper notes, Hotspot 2.0 builds on the recently ratified IEEE 802.11u specification, and also incorporates the long ratified IEEE 802.11i based WPA2 Enterprise security specification, which enables secure authentication and encryption for Wi-Fi data using a variety of user credentials including (U)SIM, digital certificates and username/passwords.
“The combination of ANDSF and Hotspot2.0 is a particularly powerful enabler for a pain-free user experience across Wi-Fi and cellular networks,” Alcatel-Lucent and BT explained.
Mobile providers looking for the cellular technology already have an offering from Alcatel-Lucent with its lightRadio Wi-Fi, which has been available since February.
“LightRadio Wi-Fi simplifies this process by allowing people to switch automatically from a cellular service to residential or public Wi-Fi networks and hotspots without having to login, worry about payments schemes, or even be aware of the shift,” Alcatel-Lucent stated during its announcement of Wi-Fi going mobile. They added, “This is done in three ways by using software that identifies and connects people to a ‘trusted’ network automatically; by introducing new capabilities into service provider networks to manage the transition between Wi-Fi and cellular networks; and by integrating Wi-Fi directly into small-cell base stations and cellular networks.”
The cocktail of ANDSF and Hotspot2.0 in lightRadio Wi-Fi simplifies the cellular-to-WiFi experience with its introduction of Wi-Fi roaming, but it also scratches the itch of another user concern: security. With lightRadio Wi-Fi, the device always find the most ‘trusted’ network.
Ken Rehbehn, a principal analyst at Yankee Group said that, “Delivering secure, seamless access to Wi-Fi networks is a key requirement in the market right now…Alcatel-Lucent's lightRadio Wi-Fi provides operators with a comprehensive solution that smartly draws from the company's strengths in radio access technology and IP routing. The result is an offer that lets operators leverage existing network assets while delivering demanding smartphone users an outstanding customer experience.”
Imagine a time when you can get off a plane in a remote place, turn on your smartphone and be connected effortlessly to a Wi-Fi network that is supported by your home operator as an option to connecting to a cellular network and ringing up substantial roaming charges. Sounds pretty good! Better yet, it is likely going to be offered by the service provider of your choice and in the not too distant future.