Just recently, Singapore local carrier M1 announced a new service that allows its postpaid subscribers to roam on international partners' wi-fi hotspots at a flat daily rate (higher rate if outside Asia Pacific and US). While overseas, connections to these partner hotspots may be established via the carrier's M1 WiFi Roaming application, which may be installed on users' smart mobile devices and tablets.
Wi-fi roaming services are also offered by other Asian carriers such as PCCW and China Mobile, with more expected to follow suit.
Today, the process of having to login to an application, and searching and connecting to available partner hotspots may still be tasking for many users. Fret not because in the near future, wi-fi roaming could be as effortless as roaming onto a cellular network.
Coming soon is Hotspot 2.0, a new technological standard by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which makes it possible to link a huge network of random wi-fi access points through a Web of interconnections - so users can seamlessly move between wi-fi networks from almost any location.
Hotspot 2.0 has been most predominantly associated with carriers and equipment suppliers. However, this new technology development is likewise poised to attract the attention of the enterprise. Here's why:
People use wi-fi mostly indoors. And when they are indoors they are in some building, somewhere. And somebody else typically owns that building and most often the network infrastructure inside. That somebody else is usually an enterprise. A more recent phenomenon is the widespread and growing use of wi-fi across public venues such as hotels, schools, malls, retail outlets, public transport, etc.
In these locations, service providers want to automatically connect their subscribers to their own "branded broadband" service using the venue's available high-speed wi-fi network, which they neither own nor operate. Hotspot 2.0 makes this possible by allowing user devices to automatically connect to any wi-fi network that has an interconnection with their "home" service provider. These back-end connections might be direct, but more likely will be indirectly provided through third-party "hubbing" services.
Taking the tech talk out of it all, what this means is that any enterprise venue will be able to use their existing WLAN network to offer capacity to carriers that are looking to give subscribers a seamless wi-fi experience, just like they have today with their cellphones but without broadcasting numerous Wi-Fi SSIDs.
Now, enterprises can see this as an opportunity to wholesale their existing wireless LAN capacity to various operators and charge them recurring fees for wi-fi network access. Effectively, enterprises can turn their WLANs into profit centres - perhaps, while underwriting the costs to build more industrial-strength wireless network that improves their own users' experience.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.