In a white paper released on Tuesday, the Wi-Fi Alliance outlined a program that will allow Wi-Fi device owners to jump onto hotspots without the need for annoying usernames and passwords. Called the Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint, the first phase of certification tests will begin in July. The second phase will begin next year and provide additional features.
The purpose of the new standard should be fairly obvious: to allow device owners to move from access point to access point without the need to keep track of various usernames and passwords. Even more, hotspot owners will be able to remove their "splash screens," those annoying browser-based web pages that greet visitors after they've connected. These typically contain the user agreement and don't require usernames and passwords.
"As an industry-wide solution, Passpoint will work in any network and overcome the limitations of proprietary, non-interoperable solutions offered by some providers today," the Alliance said in its white paper.
Unlike current methods, admission to a network via Passpoint will take place in the background which may eventually involve the SIM card. This would allow Wi-Fi devices like cameras and low-end cellphones to join Passpoint-certified Wi-Fi networks where they are authorized. Adding authentication to the SIM card would also simplify the transition between a carrier's mobile network and its Wi-Fi based hotspot network (like AT&T).
The first phase, according to the paper's outline, will not only test authentication methods, but the Alliance will also certify products for network discovery and selection using the IEEE 802.11u standard. Certification will be based on user preferences, available networks and other factors. The Alliance will also establish the security aspect for every connection using Passpoint, mandating its own WPA-2 Enterprise technology.
The second phase, launching next year, will see the Passpoint standard expand to offer a streamlined process for setting up a new user account at the point of access. Operator-specific subscriber policies, including for network selection, will also be added to the standard.
The Alliance said that Passspoint hotspots can be made compatible with older access points and devices, although the benefits of using Passpoint won't be available. Otherwise, vendors will need all the components of the specification to win the full-flown Passpoint certification.