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Next-generation wi-fi hotspots will connect 'without you knowing about it'

Tuesday, December 9th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

The future of public wi-fi lies in Next Generation Hotspots (NGHs), according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

Operators are becoming more confident in the technology that provides NGHs, paving the way for them to become the future of wi-fi, according to a report by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), published last week.

NGHs allow devices to connect automatically to them, similar to how mobile phones automatically connect to a partner network when roaming.

Ton Brand, senior marketing director at the WBA, told Cable.co.uk: "Next Generation Hotspot is terminology that we coined about three years ago.

"The baseline for an NGH is if you enter a venue that has that type of hotspot, you are going to connect to that hotspot without you knowing about it.

"As you would if you're roaming from one network to another network, if you go from the UK to the Netherlands you automatically connect to your roaming partner.

"That's the same approach that we're looking at with the Next Generation Hotspot.”

He said they would improve security by limiting users’ involvement: “As soon as the user has to do something it inherently becomes insecure.

If you could use the SIM card in your mobile phone to also authenticate onto a wi-fi hotspot it has the same level of security.

"That's what we're trying to replicate and that's what we call a Next Generation Hotspot."

Mr Brand's comments come as the WBA announced the findings of its annual report on the wif-fi hotspot market compiled by global research company Maravedis-Rethink.

According to the survey, 41% of the 210 respondents said improving customer experience was the single most important driver to invest in NGHs, with 31% of those with active plans for NGH expecting to have deployed by the end of 2016.

The WBA said significant advances have been made in NGH deployments which now include 12 live commercial deployments worldwide.

The Wireless Broadband Alliance, which was set up in 2003, aims to drive the deployment of next generation wi-fi.

Its original aim was to achieve on wi-fi networks what mobile operators were achieving with roaming on mobile networks, Mr Brand said.

Members of the WBA include fixed operators such as BT, mobile operator groups, and technology companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Huawei and Intel.

Mr Brand said: "Our vision has moved on from not just looking at wi-fi roaming but much more on how can we make wi-fi a much more secure and interoperable environment and therefore kind of in the sidelines also improve the user experience.

"Because we all know that about three years ago trying to get into a wi-fi hotspot was almost as dangerous as giving your bank details to the guy next door in the street."

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