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Cisco Trial Seamless WiFi and Mobile Roaming Tech on Orkney

Friday, September 27th, 2019 (8:49 am) - Score 1,237

Cisco and CloudNet have begun live trials of their new OpenRoaming technology on Orkney (Scotland) via the wider 5G RuralFirst project, which aims to make it easier for mobile users to stay connected to the internet by allowing them to seamlessly and securely roam between different WiFi hotspots.

The idea of seamless roaming between WiFi hotspots is nothing new and indeed there are existing systems, such as the Wireless Broadband Alliance‘s WISPr 2.0 or the Wi-Fi Alliance‘s Hotspot 2.0 (Passpoint). Likewise some operators already work together between different WiFi network platforms in order to facilitate this, although many of these require you to pay a subscription for a global pass.

Nevertheless the old approach doesn’t appear to have worked all that well since most of us still end up having to sign-up with lots of different WiFi hotspots in order to use them (painful), which is often necessary when there’s no viable 4G or 5G based mobile broadband signal to use.

By comparison the new trial, which forms part of the £4.3m Government funded 5G RuralFirst testbeds programme (here), enables mobile users to automatically and seamlessly roam across WiFi and cellular 4G or 5G networks.

openroaming cisco

Cisco’s Description of OpenRoaming

OpenRoaming provides mobile users frictionless guest Wi-Fi onboarding by linking together access providers (such as public venues, retailers, airports, and large enterprises) and identity providers (such as service provider carriers, devices, and cloud providers). With OpenRoaming, you’ll be able to get online seamlessly and automatically after signing in just once using a trusted identity provider.

The service will be completely secure and fast, and you’ll never have to guess which Wi-Fi network to use or suffer through a pop-up captive portal again. You will be connected wherever you go so you can download, stream, video chat, and game to your heart’s desire.

The OpenRoaming Federation will be made up of identity providers such as SP carriers, devices and cloud providers and Wi-Fi access providers such as retailers, hotels, and large venues to enable customers to connect automatically. This Wi-Fi connection will be secured using industry-standard Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) protocols and encrypted authentication.

The solution appears to harness some of the existing Hotspot 2.0 approach, although by the sounds of it this will still be dependent upon the many different hotspot providers agreeing to join. As such it remains to be seen how much adoption this gets in the wild but no doubt many people would welcome a system that could actually deliver on the promise of seamless and secure public WiFi connectivity between the many different networks.

The OpenRoaming trial on Orkney appears to be taking place in the largest town of Kirkwall.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Michael V says:

    There’s a MVNO in USA that [in addition to using MNO’s coverage] uses public WiFi as a first option to keep customers connected.
    It’s a really good idea, there can be benefits to it & will of course switch to cellular connection when there’s no Wi-Fi.
    But in my mind there needs to a really good level of public WiFi for this to work well!
    I’m interested to see how this develops.

  2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    When public WIFI was in its infancy there were more agreements between the players as they needed to increase their scope. Unfortunately WIFI has become predominantly driven by marketing with every shop and cafe being encouraged to have its own login and password accumulating our data for ever. I have lost count o 2 By all means have a dedicated branded landing page for the hotspot but it would be simpler to allow access to the multiple providers.

    Despite standards we went through a phase of convoluted access which thankfully has now reduced (except for certain caravan clubs).

    Things are better if you subscribe to one of the main WIFI Providers either directly or via Broadband ISP. But you need to know that Virgin is for London Tube Stations (260) and The Cloud are in London Overground stations (79) with O2 for some eateries. But you need to check in advance for airports. BT and Virgin have increased their scope by defaulting their home routers to provide a hotspot but as these are often behind the TV or Sofa it is often no use for those in the street. Although I have recommended BT WIFI to people as a cheap broadband option on occasion (old neighbour, student, lodger etc).

    I appreciate there has been some community initiatives and companies that can exploit/fund the concept and I applaud those involved in Wireless community networks (WCNs). EE customers can access Virgin WIFI in London so we know its not a technical issue its a contractual one.

    My view is that we need to think again about WIFI, where WIFI is best and where 5G is best, using a mixture of the technologies/protocols to allow seamless roaming and a ubiquitous network. The shop/cafe still needs its branded page and possibly a log. The WCN still needs its welcome, what to do and whats on pages (including advertising) but surely there is no need for more than one login for browsing and WIFI Calling access could be facilitated universally (particularly for emergency calls if nothing else).

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