The arrival of Hotspot 2.0 later this year could have a big impact on IT managers, enabling them to monetise their public access WiFi networks by entering into roaming arrangements with mobile operators, according to Ruckus Wireless.
Speaking to Techworld at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Steve Hratko, director of carrier marketing at Ruckus, said that the problem with WiFi today is that when you are travelling it can often be hard to find an SSID that you know.
Hotspot 2.0 is a set of specifications that allows users to move between Wi-Fi networks operated by different service providers without having to look up network names and enter passwords. The idea is that the WiFi connection experience becomes as secure and easy to use as 3G/4G LTE.
In order for this to happen, the organisations that run these WiFi networks need to enter into agreements with mobile network operators. Hrakto gave the example of the Hyatt chain of hotels, which runs its own WiFi network and bills customers for usage at the end of their stay.
"The Hyatt could enter into a roaming arrangement with a mobile operator like AT&T, so when customers come into the Hyatt, their devices will have a dialogue with the Hyatt access points and would determine that they could roam on that network," said Hrakto.
"No money changes hands at that time, it appears on my bill. AT&T sends me a bill at the end of the month, charges $4 a day for using the Hyatt, and AT&T then sends money to the Hyatt."
Hotspot 2.0 access points are shipping now, and enabled handsets are expected to start shipping in a month or two, according to Hrakto. Mobile companies such as Samsung and Apple are already working on the software that will enable this technology to work on multiple handsets.
Ruckus believes that Hotspot 2.0 is going to generate 10 times more traffic over WiFi, enabling WiFi to become a third radio access network for the mobile internet, alongside 3G and LTE.
"In time, the consumer won't know or care what radio access they're using because it will all be automatic. They will get a bill at the end of every month that covers all three," said Hrakto.
"With 5GHz, you also have a huge amount of capacity. Hotspot 2.0 makes it easier to get connected, and 5GHz makes it easy to chew up a lot of bandwidth, so it's a great combination."
Hotspot 2.0 is just one element of Ruckus' SmartCell Architecture, which aims to give service providers a scalable, flexible and agile blueprint for implementing Smart WiFi to address the data-driven transformation occurring across the industry.
Other measures include standardising and securing the wireless connection between client devices and access points through the use of 802.1x and 802.11i and increasing the reach and reliability of the radio access network with adaptive antenna technology and network optimisation tools.
Ruckus is also integrating Wi-Fi with existing core systems at the network edge, using integration protocol standards such as S2a mobility over GTP (SaMOG) and GPRS tunneling protocol (GTP), and enabling advanced service functionality unique to Wi-Fi RANs, such as indoor location information and efficient multi-tenancy support for enterprise managed services.
"I'd watch this technology - it's very applicable in the enterprise market, and it could have a huge impact on IT managers," said Hrakto