Wireless Broadband Alliance trials secure, password-free public WiFi in Hackney

Mobile users were able to seamlessly switch between cellular and wireless connectivity through an OpenRoaming profile or app.

Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is the global industry body for improving WiFi standards and services. The organisation conducted its latest proof-of-concept test in Shoreditch, Hackney. The area was chosen for its high footfall in daytimes and evenings, with many businesses, student residences, and nightlife destinations in the neighbourhood. 

The test was undertaken in partnership with CIN, a company which provides streetside telecom infrastructure, digital infrastructure firm Colt Technology Services, and GlobalReach Technology, a specialist in wireless ISP services and solutions. WBA’s OpenRoaming framework allows users and ‘things’ to securely access to millions of WiFi networks across the world using a roaming federation service, with automatic connection through a profile of their choice. 

Through this approach, mobile carriers can also choose to offload their own cellular traffic in order to ensure all users have the best possible service. The result is a substantially improved ability for companies, mobile operators, and municipal organisations such as city councils to roll out secure networks and enterprise applications. Once a profile has been created and stored on a device, no user names or passwords are ever needed, but the connection is completely secure. 

‘Cities and municipalities seek to provide automatic, quality, and secure wifi connectivity, this is exactly what OpenRoaming delivers,’ said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance. ‘This is the kind of initiative our organisation endorses; it supports our mission to enable collaboration between service providers, technology companies, cities, regulators and organisations. We look forward to the widespread deployment of these services after the successful conclusion of this live proof of concept.’

The benefits of public WiFi networks in urban centres have long been understood, but issues have prevailed with accessibility and security. Simply put, users have either been put off due to the laborious nature of signing up and signing in to a different network in each different location, or concerned about vulnerability to cyber crime. 

However, a 2017 survey on free public WiFi conducted by One World Identity Labs found 49% of respondents in the US had used these networks when struggling to get a cellular connection. 32% preferred using free public WiFi even when they did have a cellular connection. 

‘Through our interconnected infrastructure and capacity of 100G provided to the CIN Street Arc, we are redefining the wifi experience for roamers, offering premium quality connectivity that seamlessly adapts to their needs,’ said Mirko Voltolini, VP, technology and innovation, Colt Technology Services.

‘This trial demonstrates the benefits for residents and visitors when they are able to automatically roam onto a secure public wifi network, especially in areas where mobile coverage is weak. The trial achieved impressive download speeds of 340Mbps and upload speeds of 350Mbps.’

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