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Telcos, mobile pushers muck in to trial 'clever' Wi-Fi

Hotspot 2.0: We don't need no skeenkin' logon

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Fourteen of the largest telecommunications companies around the world have participated in successful trials of Hotspot 2.0, which made it easier for them to use Wi-Fi.

During the trials, users received devices which can automatically attach to Wi-Fi when its available, and present credentials without having to bother the user for a password. But the real interest is from network operators, who get to use Hotspot 2.0 as though it were a cellular base station while also preventing those who haven't paid from latching on to it.

The trials, which were coordinated by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, included testing by AT&T, DOCOMO, China Mobile and BT, among others. Mobile kit vendors, including LG and Intel, also proved their devices were compatible with the Next Generation Hotspots (NGHs, apparently).

But it's not just hotspots and devices that one needs. Three clearing houses (Aicent, BSG & TNS) got involved to verify the credentials, and network vendors including Cisco, Aruba and Ruckus demonstrated interoperability.

Devices connecting to an NGH can use the cellular SIM, or other secure element, or even credentials stored on a hard drive, to automatically log on to a hotspot when it's nearby, so users don't have to manually connect and airports can be stripped of the brightly-coloured service marks which so consistently remind one how great connectivity would be if only one had signed up with a different provider.

Companies such as Devicescape can already bodge that kind of connectivity, using specially-formatted DNS queries to retrieve logon credentials, but an industry standard is obviously preferable. The process isn't technically difficult, but getting a standard working requires lots of integration, which is why the trials have been so critical.

The Wireless Broadband Alliance reckons that means commercial deployments later this year. ®

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