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Be a network visionary: Spotting the next trends in hotspots

Unified access layer for wired and wireless LAN with HP - Part 9

 

By Martine Velkeniers, Global Product Marketing, HP Networking

 

mv1.jpgImagine no longer having to toy with passwords to get your phone or tablet onto the hotel’s Wi-Fi network. Imagine being able to automatically roam from 3G to a local hotspot without needing to select a Wi-Fi network, enter some form of credentials and click connect. Add to that that many public hotspots are open, meaning there is no encryption of the wireless traffic, posing potential security threats. Fortunately help is at hand. A new Wi-Fi experience that is as secure and easy as to use as cellular is just around the corner. 

 

The exponential growth of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and increasing demand for bandwidth-intensive applications are causing a surge in data traffic that mobile networks cannot keep pace with causing frustration for users who have to contend with low bandwidth connections.  Even though mobile network operators are planning to invest in new capacity in the form of LTE services, the gains of LTE won’t be sufficient to meet the increased demand for mobile data.

 

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Mobile network operators now recognize that Wi-Fi plays a pivotal role in the future of mobile communication services and complements their core network services by offering dual benefits, offloading data from their congested 3G/4G networks and increasing customer satisfaction.  

 

While it might be easy for mobile users like you and me to configure an automatic connection to frequently used Wi-Fi services at home or work, getting a connection in a public space can be a cumbersome and frustrating experience. Even though the number hotspot connections continue to grow, the percentage of mobile subscribers who use hotspots on a regular basis remains relatively low.  Improving that hotspot experience will increase use while providing operators with an immediate opportunity to offload traffic from their mobile network.

 

New features with IEEE 802.11u standard

 

The IEEE 802.11u standard enables new features designed to improve network selection, authentication and roaming.  In combination with the WPA2 and EAP enhancements, 802.11u promises to deliver a Wi-Fi connectivity experience that is comparable to that of cellular networks. The 802.11u standard enables a mobile device to automatically query an access point to determine the services it offers including network type e.g. private, free or fee-based, hotspot operator's name, roaming partners and credentials supported.  This means that if your device detects that an access point offers Wi-Fi services that you are entitled to use you can automatically authenticate to the network.

 

The Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) recently launched a new certification program that targets a new generation of hotspots by leveraging 802.11u capabilities to enable a seamless connection experience for Wi-Fi networks operated by service providers 

 

Welcome Wi-Fi Certified PasspointTM

 

Passpoint was launched in June 2012. The first phase of certification program combines the network discovery and selection features of 802.11u with the encryption and authentication features of WPA2 and EAP already defined by the WiFi Alliance. There are a limited number of certified devices and access points today but it is expected that many more will become available in the coming months.  The second phase of the program is still under development and will add the online creation of a subscription while the user is at a hotspot and enable key policy management features for hotspot operators around the middle of 2013.

 

HP Networking has a rich history of providing Wi-Fi solutions for hotspot and other public access applications.  HP's products are installed in the world's leading hotel brands, “hot zones” in major metropolitan, marinas and mass transit hubs and HP will support 802.11u on its MSM access points.

 

While the next generation hot spot will deliver a seamless Wi-Fi experience that benefits both end users and operators the broader adoption of Passpoint will largely depend on software support on client devices. Currently the number of devices that support Passpoint is very limited, and the general consensus is that it will be around mid-2013 by the time next generation hotspots deployment becomes more widespread. 

 

 

Follow our blog series: Unified access layer for wired and wireless LAN with HP

 

HP unified access solution helps you address your security, scalability, management and WLAN design challenges. Now through the end of the year, we’ll be discussing the hot topics, challenges, benefits, technologies and innovations related to unified access. Join us!

 

Up next: Stacking solutions

 

 

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