Industry groups aim for seamless 3G-Wi-Fi roaming

Summary:The GSM Association and Wireless Broadband Alliance have joined forces to make it possible for smartphone and tablet users to roam between the two technologies more easily

The mobile industry's representative body, the GSM Association, is working with its Wi-Fi industry counterpart to allow users to automatically move between 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Wi-Fi symbol

The GSM Association and Wireless Broadband Alliance have joined forces to make it possible for smartphone and tablet users to roam between the two technologies more easily.

The GSMA and the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) said on Tuesday that the joint initiative would "bring together the benefits of mobile technology and Wi-Fi networks for the first time", largely in the hope of spreading the load when it comes to ever-increasing mobile data consumption.

"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," GSMA technology director Dan Warren said in a statement.

The WBA and the Wi-Fi Alliance, another wireless industry body, had already banded together for the Next Generation Hotspot programme, an attempt to create new standards for roaming between Wi-Fi networks. The GSMA tie-in builds on that work, adding mobile broadband technologies such as 3G to the mix.

Seamless roaming

According to the joint release, the Wi-Fi roaming initiative has already "identified and agreed to the basis for a common approach to authenticating mobile devices on Wi-Fi hotspots, automatically and securely".

Now the mobile and Wi-Fi bodies have to find a way to make their security and billing systems work together, while also getting manufacturers to design the new approach into their phones and tablets.

This is not the first time that 'seamless' roaming between mobile broadband and Wi-Fi has been attempted. The WBA released Wireless ISP roaming (WISPr) specifications in 2010 for that very purpose, but little has been heard of WISPr since its trials took place.

GSMA's technology chief Dan Warren told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that "the problem was that a lot of stuff within WISPr was not particularly rigorous, so it wasn't broadly adopted in a consistent fashion".

"We're cognisant of the fact that people are using smartphones on Wi-Fi a lot more than previous devices were, but from the GSMA side we also hope able to apply a more consistent and rigorous approach," Warren said. "The work we've done so far has taken in a lot of input including the WISPr work."

Warren said technical work and contract-writing would take around nine months and "we'll probably see live capabilities in 12-18 months' time", although wide adoption would take a little longer.

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Topics: Networking


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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