By Tiago Rodrigues, General Manager of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA)
This year at Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona a group of companies, many of them members of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) together with GSMA, Fira Barcelona and City of Barcelona developed a pilot on Wi-Fi Roaming across a series of hotspots in Barcelona using Passpoint technology and WRIX standards to deliver a seamless and secure roaming service between different networks and service providers.
The goal of this project was to accelerate market understanding and adoption of Passpoint technology, network interoperability and Wi-Fi roaming services based on WRIX standards, creating what WBA defines as Next Generation Hotspot (NGH). This type of project falls in to the Testing and Trials programs from WBA to accelerate business opportunities and technology adoption – something WBA has been doing since 2008.
Over 2200 hotspots were made live; from Fira Gan Via and Fira Montjuic where GSMA MWC is hosted, over 300 APs across Barcelona, in some of the key tourist locations, like the Ramblas, Plaza Catalunya, Passeig de Gràcia, train stations among many other sites in the City and in El Prat Airport.
Overall the plan was to setup a wide coverage of a Wi-Fi/Passpoint/NGH network across MWC Fira Exhibition Center, transportation hubs (airport and train stations) and outdoor coverage in City center. In all these locations Passpoint technology was activated and a specific SSID was set up for the project to deliver to the end users a cellular like experience over the Wi-Fi networks, full automatic connection to the Wi-Fi hotspots – without any manual intervention from the end users.
Who was involved?
Cisco Systems played the role of major technology provider and was supported by Boingo Wireless, Unitronics, CellNex and Think Smarter for all the configurations and testing. All the hotspots where interconnected using the concept of a central roaming Hub facilitated by Boingo Wireless, BSG Wireless and Accuris-Neworks.
Additionally WBA invited service providers with commercial NGH/Passpoint services to join the project and provide roaming to their customers during the duration of MWC Barcelona. Mobile operators, cable operators, ISPs, pure Wi-Fi providers and users from enterprises that already have Passpoint deployed in their offices; all these companies came together and used all these hotspots across Barcelona for their benefit of their customers as if they were at their home network or office.
WBA and GSMA working together
This is not the first time the WBA has promoted a NGH/Passpoint network during major events like MWC Barcelona but this time four major improvements were achieved:
1. Increased coverage beyond the Fira Exhibion Center. The project included private (enterprise Wi-Fi by Fira Barcelona), Municipal Wi-Fi (by City of Barcelona) and Airport Wi-Fi (by AENA, state own company to manage the Spanish airports)
2. Mobilize enterprises users from companies that have already deployed Passpoint at their offices and headquarters, several companies got involved either directly or through iPASS services.
3. Only involved operators / carriers with Passpoint/NGH services commercially available, like AT&T, Charter Communications, Softbank or Boingo Wireless. This decision removed any on-boarding obstacles making a truly seamless experience to all users, just like cellular.
4. Generated anonymized analytics from the multiple hotspots to provide information to all venue owners participating on the project. Think Smart developed real time analytics, including flows and volumes of devices connected by location and flows of movement of those devices across and within the multiples hotspots.
Our thanks to all those who participated.
Over 25 companies participated in this project and WBA had the honor to coordinate this initiative over the last 4 months and work with some of the best industry professionals and Wi-Fi experts. Tremendous amount of data have come out of this initiative but we will leave it to project participants to provide their case studies and reports, so stay tuned.
Project participants: GSMA, WBA, Cisco, Boingo Wireless, City of Barcelona, Fira Barcelona, Unitronics, Cellnex, Think Smarter, BSG Wireless, Accuris Networks, AT&T, T-Mobile US, Sprint, Mobily, Telecom26, Softbank, Shaw Communications, Spectrum (Charter Communications), ER Telecom, iPass and several enterprises with their employees.
Over 50 people were involved on the project and we thank you all for making this happen, but I would like to point out my gratitude to Jordi Cirera and Toni Carol Vilanova (from the City of Barcelona), Alex Williams and Jon France (from GSMA), Carlos Sanchez and Xavier Michavila Asensio (from Fira Barcelona), Mir Alami and Matt MacPherson (from Cisco), Derek Peterson and Kishore Raja (from Bongo Wireless), Antoni Montis (Unitronics), Blaz Vavpetic (from iPASS), Pedro Salvatella (Cellnex) and Brendan O’Brien (from Think Smarter).
Making the vision a reality
This initiative represents somehow my vision for Public Wi-Fi with multiple venue owners working together from private, public and municipal sectors alongside of all types of operators/carriers and enterprise users – Wi-Fi is seamless, interoperable, secure and widely available – an entire ecosystem coming together and WBA and its member are making this vision a reality.
Looking forward for MWC 2019 and to take this initiative to the next level with more coverage, more services and more end users – interested in these type of initiatives? Do you have ideas to make it more valuable? You are welcome, please drop me a line and let´s make Wi-Fi seamless, secure and interoperable across the entire ecosystem.