Exploring Hotspot 2.0

If there is one innovation in the WiFi field we have been taking very seriously, it is the Hotspot 2.0. This technology improves the ability of WiFi enabled devices to discover and securely connect to public WiFi hotspots. It is one big step towards providing a user experience in WiFi networks very similar to cellular networks.

Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint and NGH: What is what?

Hotspot 2.0 is a standard specified by the WiFi Alliance (WFA), while Passpoint (also run by WFA) is its certification program.

Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) is a program run by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). It relies on Hotspot 2.0 technology and translates it to public WiFi scenarios, including when roaming agreements are in place. The final goal is to deliver a public WiFi experience that is as seamless and secure as a cellular network.

Bascially, Hotspot 2.0 enables end-user devices to have a kind of “dialogue” with an access point. It provides query mechanisms to enable devices to discover some information before associating with a hotspot. This allows devices to take some decisions regarding the WiFi connection, based on rules configured by either the user or the operator. It also incorporates a new security specification, the IEEE 802.11i based WPA2 Enterprise, which enables secure authentication (EAP methods) and encryption.

The first version of Hotspot 2.0 was launched in Q4 2012. Infrastructure equipment providers, such as Cisco, Ruckus and Ericsson, launched Passpoint-certified products, and device vendors, like Apple, Samsung and LG, introduced the first Passpoint handsets. However, success in terms of real deployments has been relatively limited.

This first release was focused on improving network discovery and selection. After initial commercial deployments, operators realized that configuration was complex and not easy for common users. The second release of Hotspot 2.0 solves this problem, by specifying a method for online signup and configuration provisioning and relying on a newly defined unit named the Online SignUP (OSU) server. The OSU server is designed to enable the registration of new subscribers and provide their Hotspot 2.0-enabled devices a subscription (incl. credentials) configuration.

Fon has been actively  following this technology since the very beginning. We have joined industry initiatives like the NGH Experience pilots organised by the WBA. We are working hard to be pioneers of Hotspot 2.0 within the Community WiFi ecosystem and provide our users with a seamless and secure WiFi experience.