Passpoint: more intelligent, and easier to use, Wi-Fi hotspots

Wi-Fi hotspots are pretty wonderful, but the way we currently connect to them could be better. After all, it isn’t all that fun to search through a list of available networks for the one that you’re looking for. It also isn’t fun having to enter in a password, or potentially other login information whenever you want to connect, only to find that the connection is too slow or there is no Internet service after all. Fortunately, that’s set to change with the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Passpoint™.

Passpoint, also known as Hotspot 2.0, is designed to make that experience easier and help to solve some of the biggest challenges facing mobile data use today. With Release 1, Passpoint enabled auto-discovery and network selection, seamless authentication and a secure connection through over-the-air WPA2-Enterprise security. For example, let’s say your mobile operator runs Wi-Fi hotspots throughout your city (and they probably do). Through your relationship with them, your phone can automatically connect to any of those networks, authenticate with them and give you Wi-Fi access without you needing to do anything. You wouldn’t need to search through lists of networks or enter in any passwords.

Image Source: Wi-Fi Alliance

Image Source: Wi-Fi Alliance

Consumers aren’t the only ones to benefit. Venue owners can offer differentiated WLAN solutions with a wide coverage of applications such as Wi-Fi offload, seamless public hotspot access and specific use cases in enterprise WLAN and vertical market segments. Phones and tablets with our IZAT™ indoor location technology will be able to discover venue specific, location-based services even before associating with the access points in the network. As such, venue owners have a better chance of monetizing Wi-Fi assets.

You may be familiar with the 1000x challenge, which states that mobile data usage will increase a thousand fold. This threatens to put a tremendous burden on mobile networks. However, easier, secure and managed Wi-Fi connections not only allow for a better user experience, but also more efficient use of the Wi-Fi spectrum. With a wide deployment of hotspots and small cells, operators will be able to meet the 1000x growth challenge.

The industry needs to offer support to really make Passpoint work, and we have done just that. Qualcomm Atheros is enabling the WLAN chipset ecosystem with Passpoint capabilities. For access points, our solutions that conform to the Passpoint Release 1 specification include the dual-band XSPAN™ 3-stream 802.11n WLAN networking platform. For handset products, our mobile WLAN chipsets – the complete WCN36x0 series of products including the WCN3660 (1×1 802.11n combo WiFi/BT/FM chip) and the WCN3680 (1×1 802.11ac combo Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM chip) – support Passpoint Release 1.

We’ve been heavily involved with Passpoint since its conception, and we are an active contributor in the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Passpoint Release 1 and Release 2 standardization and certification activities. Release 2 adds support for additional features such as provisioning of operator policy and immediate account provisioning. Certification is planned for 2H 2013.