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Hotspot 2.0 will enable enterprises to wholesale Wi-Fi access

David Callisch, VP of marketing, Ruckus Wireless | April 10, 2013
The most widely anticipated but least understood "next big thing" in the networked world is Hotspot 2.0 (HS 2.0).

This represents an unprecedented opportunity for any enterprise to wholesale their existing wireless LAN capacity to myriad operators by charging them recurring fees for Wi-Fi network access. Enterprises can effectively turn their WLANs, often burdened by large capital and operational expenses to begin with, into profit centers while underwriting the costs to build more industrial-strength wireless network the improves their own users' experience.

Where it gets really interesting is when Google, Facebook and come into the picture at home provider, using HS 2.0 to authenticate users anywhere against their own databases.

[ ANOTHER VIEW: How to improve the smartphone experience inside the enterprise ]

Hotspot 2.0 in a nutshell

The initial work done on HS 2.0 (release 1) primarily focused on the foundational work of network discovery and automatic authentication, using a variety of credentials. Much attention has been given to the ability to use a smartphone SIM (subscriber identity module) as the HS 2.0 credential. HS 2.0 also supports client-side certificates or username/password pairs for authentication. Regardless of the specific credential used, HS 2.0 will eliminate the need for the user to fiddle with their device in order to associate to the hotspot. No more "SSID surfing" or having to ask the barista for the Wi-Fi passphrase.

The ability of the mobile device to "learn" about Wi-Fi network capabilities pre-association will completely transform the Wi-Fi user experience, making connecting to a Wi-Fi network effectively transparent. It will also completely change the nature of a Wi-Fi SSID (Service Set IDentifier).

In the past, users and devices had to "remember" SSIDs that have provided connectivity in the past, so that they can be accessed again in the future. These are typically SSIDs for which they have credentials or which provide open access.

With HS 2.0 the importance of SSIDs is reduced. What really matters is if the visited AP has a roaming arrangement with the user's "home" network provider. In fact the notion of having an AP advertise many different SSIDs for different purposes will also be greatly reduced in favor of Hotspot 2.0-based advertisements. This should also enhance the performance of mobile networks, as it reduces the airlink traffic associated with the beacons and probe responses generated by these additional SSIDs.

Release 2.0, currently in the testing phases, incorporates online sign-up for non-SIM devices as well as operator policy for network selection.

Operator policy helps handsets select the best carrier network to choose based on a variety of options. For instance, the device will be able to select the "best" visited network, based on roaming agreements, service level agreements or any number of other criteria. The good news is that the enterprise is oblivious to all of this as the infrastructure is now smart enough to figure it all out.


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