Feeds

Smartphones eclipse laptops as top WiFi hogs

Phondleslabs now using cellular merely to fill in gaps

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Two out of five devices using public Wi-Fi networks are smartphones according to new figures. Laptops nipped in just below, accounting for 39 per cent of connected computers, tablets lag behind at 17 per cent, and the rest are unidentified.

The numbers come from the Wireless Broadband Alliance, which got them from biz research outfit Informa and is using them to push support for Passpoint: the next-generation authentication system allowing devices to identify themselves automatically, and mobile network operators to extend their connectivity into the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band, which is probably why the Small Cell Forum has agreed to work with the alliance to integrate phone masts into hotspots.

It's the first time smartphones have outranked laptops in Wi-Fi usage, but this shouldn't be surprising given the way a phone is always looking out for connectivity while a laptop has to be powered up before it starts communicating - for the moment at least.

However, anyone connected to a hybrid mobile phone base station via Wi-Fi with a device that isn't otherwise on the mobile network presents problems for the base station's operator and the regulator, in the UK at least, when it comes to controlling access to stuff online.

So, for example, a cellular operator will block access to pornography until the customer has proved their age, but the same customer, on the same device, can switch to Wi-Fi and access all the flesh they desire from the Wi-Fi-enabled base station. More importantly, for the operator, Wi-Fi users can't be securely identified as customers for billing purposes, so they can't access their mobile phone account details and can't use PayForIt or other operator-billing mechanisms.

There are three ways to solve that, so the operators are enthusiastically endorsing all of them. The first is to stick phone masts in every Wi-Fi hotspot, and the aforementioned forum and alliance are now committed to working on that. The second is to find a way of identifying the user over the public Wi-Fi networks as enabled by Passpoint and next-generation hotspots being identified by the alliance. THe third is to create devices that will switch to cellular for secure authentication, which is a work in progress.

The third option is similar to what happens when one runs up Google Maps on an Android device. No matter how solid the Wi-Fi connectivity, the cellular data flashes up to enable the app to grab information about the local base station, which is then used to narrow down the location, but it's not a big jump to imagine a similar process authenticating a payment or ticket.

Handsets will seek out the quickest way to connect to the internet, whatever that may be, and these numbers show that's increasingly bypassing the network operator, which isn't going to disappear any time soon but needs to do more to avoid being relegated to filling in the gaps between hotspots. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Trying to sell your house? It'd better have KILLER mobile coverage
More NB than transport links to next-gen buyers - study
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Speak your brains on SIGNAL-FREE mobile comms firm here
Is goTenna tech a goer? Time to grill CEO, CTO
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.