Future of Wifi: How a new breed of Wifi Hotspots will feed our data addiction

35-WiFi-and-3G-Vendors-team-up.jpgBummed out by wifi networks that demand you type in fiddly passwords? or worse have badly laid-out log-in pages that bar your browser. Chances are you also get frustrated waiting ages for 3G to load a webpage. Public wifi could solve both these problems and give us the fast mobile internet we’re all crying out for.

And the Wireless Broadband Alliance imagine just such a sunny future – a world where wifi networks are as seamless and safe to access as 3G, but much faster of course. We’ll be able to stream Lady Gaga videos in the street, and the unlimited flow of data will power all sorts of new devices including the internet-gobbling tablets we all clutch in our paws these days.

However, the Alliance is a commercial organisation, so they’re not proposing government-sponsored free wifi bathing the streets of our cities, but rather projects like BT Openzone, where your mobile phone network will offer you access to wifi hotspots when you buy your phone contract.

That’s why big network players like Orange, AT&T and China Telecoms are at the Wireless Broadband Alliance running in Paris at the end of this week. The big announcement will be Next Generation Hotspots.

We interviewed the CEO of the Alliance Shrikant Shenwain and the Chair of the Alliance (also CEO of BT Openzone) Chris Bruce.

Their key points:

We are ravenous for data
In 2009 there were 500 million wifi-enabled devices in the world: mostly laptops, now there are 2 billion online devices, largely mobile devices.
Chris: “We have an M25 problem with mobile data: where more capacity creates content and more traffic..”
He acknowledges that the iPhone changed the game. Voice used to make up 90% of the mobile spectrum, but now it’s 90% data transfer. The argument of the Wireless Broadband Alliance is that 3G needs to be complemented by wifi to meet our growing demand.

Next Generation Hotspots will be better than current hotspots for three reasons
“Next Generation Hotspots address three of the main problems with current wifi” said Chris: “ease of use, accessibility, increased security”.

You won’t need passwords to access these new wifi spots
Instead smarter networks will be able to use your Sim card or a certificate in your device to recognise that you are allowed access to the network. This should be more secure as well.

Wifi will be much easier and interoperable
Shrikant: “Customers will just be connected. You won’t think about how. A lot of background work has to go into making that experience seamless, a lot of agreements on user experience, business models.”

Anna Leach


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