Operators set stage for international Wi-Fi roaming

Network assessments will lead the way as operators look to offer users simpler access when travelling

International roaming between carriers' Wi-Fi networks has come a step closer, with AT&T, Boingo Wireless, NTT DoCoMo and Orange completing network assessments as part of the Wireless Broadband Alliance's new interoperability program.

Mobile operators have come to see public Wi-Fi as an important part of their networks as their customers generate increasing volumes of data traffic. But processes for users to connect to and roam on to Wi-Fi networks are still fragmented, according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

By defining a blueprint for Wi-Fi roaming, carriers will better understand how to integrate their networks to support roaming with greater consistency and efficiency, the WBA said on Wednesday.

Following the initial launch of the Interoperability Compliancy Program (ICP) in December, operators have done a self-assessment analysis to gauge their own readiness. They looked at areas such as authentication, network discovery and selection, access security, information exchange and charging models.

Based on that, the WBA has been able to create a set of compliance guidelines, offering different support levels to operators, it said. The guidelines will simplify network aggregation and global roaming, benefitting operators and consumers, according to Bjorn Thorngren, vice president international markets at Boingo.

The work led by the WBA may make international roaming easier to implement, but that hasn't prevented operators from already signing deals. This week, AT&T signed a roaming deal with the Cloud in the U.K. In December, NTT DoCoMo and Boingo announced a partnership that allows NTT DoCoMo users to access Boingo's hotspots and vice versa.

In addition to the above mentioned operators, China Mobile, KT, PCCW, Portugal Telecom, Shaw Communications, Smart Communications and True are also taking part, according to the WBA.

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