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GSMA, WBA Collaborate to Simplify Wi-Fi Hotspot Access

The GSMA and the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) have announced that they are currently working together to simplify connectivity to Wi-Fi hotspots from devices like smartphones, tablets and notebooks by developing what they call "Wi-Fi roaming."

On Tuesday the two alliances said that they have united to bring together the benefits of mobile technology and Wi-Fi networks for the first time by jointly developing technical and commercial frameworks to support the Wi-Fi roaming initiative. This "service" will be based on the WBA's "Next Generation Hotspot" program and the Wi-Fi Alliance's "Passpoint certification" technology. It will also build on the GSMA's successful roaming principles that is currently in use by the mobile industry.

"The combination of Wi-Fi and mobile technologies extends the power of broadband for consumers," said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO, WBA. "The work by the WBA and the GSMA will expedite the availability of a new generation of Internet access for the benefit of consumers everywhere. Key to this is Wi-Fi being able to replicate the success of mobile technology and allow users to roam seamlessly between different networks."

Wi-Fi roaming will reportedly allow mobile devices to seamlessly connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot using a SIM card for authentication, as well as enable mobile operators to uniquely and securely identify users whether they are on a mobile or Wi-Fi network. There's no indication how Wi-Fi roaming will work on devices that don't have a SIM card installed like Amazon's popular Kindle Fire tablet, if at all.

So far the Wi-Fi roaming initiative has identified and agreed to the basis for a common approach in authenticating mobile devices on Wi-Fi hotspots automatically and securely. The two alliances will now work towards aligning guidelines on security, billing, data offload, device implementation and network selection to create a consistent solution for all GSMA and WBA members.

"This work will build on the GSMA's GPRS Roaming Exchange (GRX) and the WBA's Wireless Roaming Intermediary Exchange (WRIX) roaming models, which combined, will enable billions of consumers around the world to enjoy straightforward Internet connectivity," they said in a press release.