Passpoint Promise Land

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung launched the new Galaxy S4 with great fanfare, but the greatest thing about that device is buried rather deep in the user’s guide. It is the world’s first smartphone to ship with Passpoint enabled!

Passpoint is the Wi-Fi Alliance’s designation for devices and network equipment that support the Hotspot 2.0 standard. There is almost no amount of hype that goes far enough when talking about the impact that Hotspot 2.0 will have on the wireless world. Seriously.

Hotspot 2.0 has been a work in process by the Wi-Fi community for better than half a decade. The goal being to make the process of Wi-Fi roaming as easy to use and secure as with cellular. It’s not an easy proposition, but that standard was finally completed in June of last year, and network equipment with the Passpoint certification began to ship in the fall. Then came the wait for smartphones vendors to start shipping Passpoint certified devices. Now that wait is finally over!

With Samsung starting to ship Passpoint on the Galaxy S4, we can expect the other major smartphone vendors to follow suit in short order. Users will now be able to enjoy all the benefits of Hotspot 2.0 technology, and it’s a long list.

What makes Passpoint such a big deal is that it heralds in a new era where users no longer have to think about SSIDs or authentication or fumble around with passwords. Instead they just get connected. Just as in the cellular world, all the complexity of roaming and getting connected will be hidden from the user. That’s a network and device problem, and not a user problem.

All users care about is an always best-connected wireless experience. And Wi-Fi roaming can go far beyond the cellular experience. You don’t need to leave the country or even leave town to enjoy the wonders of roaming.

A user can roam at a local coffee shop, at a football stadium across town, or an airport on the other side of the world. Roaming partners can include mobile operators, cable operators, wireline operators, large and small enterprises, large and small public venues, consumer brands, and the list goes on. Roaming is simply the magic behind the curtain that makes everything happen.

Think about a huge web of millions of Wi-Fi access points owned by tens of thousands of different entities, all of which can be accessed by the user courtesy of a web of behind the scenes roaming agreements.

And not only does it make the user’s life a lot easier, it solves the network densification problem for mobile operators. With the arrival of Hotspot 2.0, Wi-Fi will begin to so weave itself into the fabric of the mobile experience that it will start to disappear from view. Hotspot 2.0’s magic doesn’t end with seamless roaming, the technology also provides an encrypted airlink.

Now when a user sits down in a coffee shop or airport they don’t need to worry about the security of their over-the-air communications. This is a problem that plagues a lot of public hotspots.

Congratulations to Samsung for being the first vendor to ship Passpoint capable devices, and now the entire wireless user community worldwide can begin to enjoy an entirely new and even more compelling user experience.

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David Callisch

David Callisch is vice president of marketing at Ruckus Wireless. With over 15 years of experience in marketing and marketing communications, David has focused his efforts on the networking hardware industry, and is a veritable fountain of information on this subject. He has extensive experience helping networking startups identify market opportunities, establish defensible differentiation, and create a unique brand. Oh, and he brings bucketloads of energy to every project. Before Ruckus, he was the director of communications at Aruba Networks, helping to launch the company and build the wireless LAN switching market segment. Previously, he served as director of communications at Allegro Networks, a supplier of carrier routing equipment, and held marketing positions at Alteon WebSystems, StrataCom, SynOptics/Bay Networks, and BT North America. His largish nostrils are his defining characteristic.