Hot Spot 2.0

Wi-FiHot Spot 2.0 is the name used by an effort to link WiFi networks together to make it easier for people to get WiFi when they are not at home. Anybody who travels understands the incredible hassle of constantly looking for hot spots, figuring out how to connect to them and then doing it over and over as you move around.

The goal of Hot Spot 2.0 is to make it as easy to use WiFi as it is to use your cell phone when you step off an airplane. Your smartphone automatically finds a compatible cellular data network and begins downloading emails as soon as you are on the runway. By the time you walk into the terminal you up and running.

There are several different aspects that need to come together to make this work. First is a set of standards, and that process is already underway. The concept is being developed by the WiFi Alliance and they are using the trademarked name of ‘Passpoint’ to certify the hardware and software involved in the process. The first set of standards were released in June 2012 and further releases are in the development pipeline. The first release covered the basics that include automating network discovery, authentication and security.

Next is hardware and software systems that will support the standard. There are already companies like Ruckus that are working on solutions you can buy. A network that implements this is going to have to be able to recognize users trying to connect with the protocol and then be able to authenticate users automatically.

Finally is selling the idea to users. It’s a no brainer to sell this to people who travel a lot, but the goal will be to get this out to all of your customers who wants the ease of being connected to WiFi whenever it’s available. With the data caps on cell phones this is a no brainer for smart phone users, but can be valuable to people with tablets and laptops as well.

One can imagine that as more and more carriers get on board with the concept that a large nationwide associations of networks will grow. There is already talk of creating WiFi roaming arrangements that will let your customers use Hot Spot 2.0 on your network or any other network with which you have an arrangement. As big consortiums are created the value of this to customers will grow. Roaming might even become a source of revenue if you have a network that entertains a lot of visitors.

But there is merit in implementing this on your own network. This product brings a valuable service to customers who are willing to pay for this. Or you might bundle it in with anybody who buys one of your landline data products. Customers will love the mobility aspect of being connected automatically to WiFi as they move around their home town. And this gives you a good reason to sell more hot spots to businesses in the town so that they can be part of this network.

Cities often talk about the goal of being wired, and mobile data is a huge component of that concept. If a City has enough hot spots then they have enabled cheap broadband access to anybody with a cell phone, tablet or laptop. This could finally be the solution to the digital divide since this could enable broadband for even the poorest among us. Get them a Hot Spot 2.0 capable device and they will have broadband at many locations around town.

This effort certainly has potential and should have legs because of the gigantic number of smartphone users that can benefit by automatically connecting to WiFi when it is available. And I know carriers are thinking about this. When I signed up for my new Comcast data service in November the terms of service included a caveat that my broadband connection might be shared with other users. That was something new that I had never seen before and I think Comcast is preparing for the day soon when every one of their data users is also a Hot Spot 2.0 site. That creates a huge network from the moment it is activated.

Only now, instead of yelling at kids to get off my lawn I will be yelling at them to get out of my WiFi!

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