Wi-Fi has become a cornerstone of our digital lives. It has filled the voids in mobile networks, which have historically never been as fast or as reliable as we would like. Hotels, restaurants, coffee shops; wherever we go, we can safely assume that there will be Wi-Fi waiting for us.
However, it has not been without its flaws. Speed is one of them but it usually still beats the one bar of 3G that plagues much of the country. The biggest drawback to Wi-Fi hotspots for most is the need to constantly log on. Every time you enter a new hotspot, you need to logon; every time you let your device go to sleep, you need to logon and sometimes you just need to logon again for no good reason at all. Well, the days of ‘logging on’ are numbered as Hotspot 2.0 is on the way.
You may have heard the term batted about once or twice; for example, at the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy S4 or the new iOS7; but what is it and what does it mean for you?
Hotspot 2.0 is a specification pioneered by the Wi-Fi Alliance, the Wireless Broadband Alliance and other partners, which will automate the connection to hotspots without any input from the user. Passpoint devices (such as the Galaxy S4 and iOS 7 devices) will be able to connect to certified hotspots using the SIM card to authenticate.
This means that devices will be able to pass between Wi-Fi hotspots and even the cellular data network without any input from the user. The implications of this new technology are massive.
As mobile service providers and hotspot providers forge new roaming partnerships, the Holy Grail of ‘always connected’ will finally be realised with devices always finding the best available connection.
People’s mobile data usage will fall dramatically as devices automatically hook up to local hotspots. This will not only mean that people use less of their data allowance; but the overcrowded cellular networks will get a break too. The truth is that even with rollout of 4G, the mobile spectrum is becoming increasingly overcrowded and Hotspot 2.0 will provide some much needed relief. Less traffic on the cellular data network means that when people do need to access the internet on the move, the experience will be a much better one.
With Wi-Fi being much more battery efficient than mobile broadband, devices will need to be recharged much less. When it comes to roaming abroad, Hotspot 2.0 could be a huge money saver. Mobile roaming is incredibly expensive business and Wi-Fi roaming is likely to give frequent travellers a break in data costs.
Great, when can I get it?
The great news is that the technology is already in place. The Galaxy S4 and new Apple devices are Passpoint compliant and a number of access point vendors are already shipping HS2.0 enabled devices.
Expect more devices to follow this year and for the technology to really begin taking off in 2014. It is finally time to wave goodbye to those annoying ‘Please login’ screens.
Written by The Cloud (www.thecloud.net). We are a BSkyB company and one of Europe’s biggest public access WiFi providers.