Wireless Industry Patches Broadband with Wi-Fi BandAid

by Matt Klassen on March 21, 2012

With the news that even our most advanced 4G LTE networks won’t be able to handle the increased data traffic our constantly connected existence is expected to generate in the next few years, the wireless industry is turning to its faithful friend Wi-Fi to help alleviate some of the pressure.

The GSM Association, a group representing wireless carriers across the globe, recently announced a partnership with the Wireless Broadband Alliance to develop simplified ways for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots. The primary goal of the Wi-Fi initiative will be to create “technical and commercial frameworks” that companies will be able to use to achieve their respective organizational goals.

Simply put, as companies try to achieve a constantly connected reality for customers amidst a startling proliferation of mobile devices, they need to develop simple and effective ways for smartphones and tablets to move freely between Wi-Fi and mobile broadband networks. Sure its not technological advancement in the strictest sense, but until a more efficient use of spectrum can be found, it’s all we have.

Currently connecting to a Wi-Fi hot spot is anything but convenient, with users having to fiddle with configuration settings, having to make sure they have the right device, and finally trying to determine how to finally get themselves on the information superhighway. While often times it’s the cheaper alternative to advanced mobile broadband networks, it’s cheaper for a reason.

But as I said, with broadband 3G and 4G networks already taxed to their limits, preparing for the estimated exponential growth in data traffic over the next three years requires some quick thinking, and with no 5G network on the horizon, giving a refresh to Wi-Fi looks like a worthy stopgap solution.

“The proliferation of smartphones and tablets around the world, as well as consumers’ huge appetite for data means innovative solutions need to be explored to make using the Internet as convenient and as accessible as possible,” Dan Warren, senior director of technology at the GSMA, said in a statement. “Through combining the proven capabilities of Mobile Broadband and Wi-Fi technologies, users will have the freedom to move between networks with ease.”

So how will this seamless transition between mobile broadband and Wi-Fi work? The initiative proposed by the GSMA and WBA, which will utilize the respective organizations’ Passpoint and Next Generation Hotspot technologies, will use a mobile device’s SIM card for automatic authentication and “enable mobile operators to uniquely and securely identify users whether they are on a mobile or Wi-Fi network.” In a word, no configuring, no passwords, no setup, just constant connection.

But as I said, utilizing Wi-Fi is merely a stopgap solution, a Band-Aid wireless carriers will use for as long as possible to mask the deeper hurts even the most advanced wireless networks are suffering and its one, given the irony that mobile broadband was meant to largely replace Wi-Fi due to the latter’s slow connection speed, that users won’t put up with for long.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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