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Asian bighitters push Wi-Fi and NFC roaming

NTT Docomo, China Mobile and KT announcing roaming initiatives while taking part in Wireless Broadband Alliance trials too


Published: 4 March, 2013

READ MORE: Asia | Standards | NFC | Wi-Fi

Three Asian powerhouses - NTT Docomo of Japan, China Mobile and Korea Telecom - have announced deals to facilitate international Wi-Fi and NFC roaming. They announced a mutual

Wi-Fi inbound roaming scheme covering their three countries at last week's Mobile World Congress and a separate pact covering future NFC interoperability.

All three are also participating in the Wireless Broadband Alliance's Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) trial, which aims to simplify Wi-Fi roaming further, looking beyond EAP-SIM to seamless hand-off and authentication controlled from the network.

The NFC agreement focuses on the likely handset and services requirements required for international roaming throughout Asia. The three operators published white papers laying out these technical requirements plus deployment guidelines for operators and merchants, based on NFC standards work.

Both these deals are the result of a far wider cooperation between these three carriers, which they signed in January 2011 to focus on common business and technology requirements. The aim was to reduce cost and time to market for new services; to streamline the process towards pan-Asian services and so steal a march on powerful local rivals like SK Telecom in Korea or KDDI in Japan; and to help shift the mobile balance of power further towards Asia.

Meanwhile, the WBA itself last week announced that several large operators have participated in network assessments for the carrier-driven Alliance's Interoperability Compliance Program (ICP). The ICP aims to streamline the way members work on common sets of technical and commercial frameworks for Wi-Fi roaming. The groundwork has been laid in tests run by AT&T, Boingo Wireless, BT, China Mobile, KT, NTT Docomo, Orange, Portugal Telecom, PCCW, Shaw Communications and True. The program is now open to all operator members of the WBA and the group hopes this will accelerate the moves towards global hotspot access with seamless roaming.

Atsuhisa Shirai, director of international roaming at Docomo, said in a statement: "The program has been central in our efforts to find a way to break down the remaining barriers that hinder the development of international roaming partnerships. The program encourages operators to take a closer look at their networks and adopt a common set of requirements and procedures for Wi-Fi roaming."

JR Wilson, chairman of the WBA and VP of partnerships and alliances at AT&T Mobility, added: "This initiative will ultimately help establish clear guidelines for operators to create a roadmap of the evolution of hotspots and eventually develop a directory of various carriers' Wi-Fi capabilities, which will enable carriers to deliver a better mobile data experience to customers when they travel abroad."

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