Cellular and Wi-Fi bodies work on common roaming
GSMA announces partnership with WBA to create unified roaming and authentication framework for hotspots and 3G/4G
Published: 21 March, 2012
With carriers integrating Wi-Fi more directly into their mobile networks, there needs to be closer collaboration between industry bodies on both sides of the fence. At Mobile World Congress, the Small Cells Forum unveiled an initiative to bring standards efforts within the 3GPP, Wi-Fi Alliance and others closer together. Now there are signs of cooperation at the operator level, with the GSM Association announcing a deal with the main body of WLan providers, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).
The two organizations are working together to create a framework to support seamless roaming between 3G/4G networks and Wi-Fi hotspots, which could find its way into real systems next year. This joins several other efforts which aim to allow users to move automatically between the two types of network, without unwieldy log-ins, and with the operator able to track them throughout.
Such changes will enable carriers to get closer to the aim of pooling WLan and cellular spectrum and capacity to create a single heterogeneous network. At MWC, the WBA announced a program to converge its 'Next Generation Hotspot' efforts with the Wi-Fi Alliance's 'HotSpot 2.0' and Passpoint certifications, all of which focus on seamless roaming, automated log-on and other functions.
The GSMA and WBA will work to develop technical and commercial frameworks for Wi-Fi roaming so that mobile devices can roam onto WLans using the SIM card for authentication. That will enable cellcos to identify users uniquely and securely, whichever network they are on. Wi-Fi players realize it is important to preserve the cellcos' norms if their unlicensed systems are to take an enhanced role in mobile communications. So WBA and Wi-Fi Alliance specs are incorporating 3GPP methods in areas such as billing, roaming and SIM authentication almost unchanged where possible. The common authentication platform will be based on a convergence of the GSMA's GPRS Roaming Exchange (GRX) and the WBA's Wireless Roaming Intermediary Exchange (WRIX) models.
The two partner bodies will also work toward common frameworks for security, billing, data offload, device implementation and network selection. The roaming framework is expected to be put in place in 2013, but may not be widely used for another 2-3 years.
The WBA's CEO Shrikant Shenwai said a key goal was to help "Wi-Fi replicate the success of mobile technology by allowing users to roam seamlessly between different networks."