The exploding use of mobile broadband devices with Wi-Fi connectivity is driving the Wi-Fi alliance towards some important innovations. Carriers are more than happy to hand off broadband hungry devices off their cellular networks to ubiquitous Wi-Fi networks. Enhanced network discovery and selection, streamlined network access, immediate account provisioning and WPA2 security are the four key benefits of a new Wi-Fi Alliance initiative. Service provider and device manufacturer members of the Alliance “have formalized a set of industry market requirements that will lay the foundation for a new Wi-Fi Certified testing program that addresses authentication and provision of service for public Wi-Fi networks,” the industry association announced.

The hotspot certification program will help service providers better manage limited spectrum availability in the face of growing wireless network traffic and switching between cellular networks and the Internet. Data volume over cellular networks is forecast to nearly double from this year to next to reach 4.56 million terabytes, due in the main to rapid growth in consumer demand for smartphones and tablets. The number of hotspots worldwide is hence expected to more than double from a currently estimated 750,000 by 2014, the group points out.

These initiatives hope to ultimately lead to seamless handoff and roaming of devices across different Wi-Fi networks and hotspots.”Ensuring end users can easily access hotspot networks from various providers is a win for subscribers, service providers and device makers alike,” said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance. “We envision an automated, cellular-like experience for Wi-Fi users around the world in security-protected service provider hotspots.”

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