Hotspot 2.0: Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint

- Hotspot 2.0, also referred to as HS 2.0 is based upon the IEEE 802.11u standard and provides for seamless roaming between Wi-Fi networks

In recent years Wi-Fi hotspots have been widely deployed and used increasingly. These hotspots are widely used by people of cafes and other public spaces to provide low cost or free internet and data connectivity.

These hotspots are being used increasingly to provide offload capabilities for the cellular networks. This provides a very low cost means for network operators to increase the capacity of their systems without the need for the installation of further base stations.

Cellular networks have the advantage that handsets and other devices connect seamlessly to the network without the need for having to access passwords and log on each time a new base station is used, or even when roaming internationally.

Wi-Fi is not able to compete with this at the moment. Each time a new hotspot is used, the user needs to log on separately - this is time consuming, inconvenient and requires the user to have the knowledge of how to log on.

Normally the user must connect manually by checking he wireless connection options, selecting the required one and entering the authentication information.

Hotspot 2.0 HS 2.0 basics

The aim of Hotspot 2.0, also called Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint or HS 2.0 is based upon the IEEE 802.11u protocols and it enables Wi-Fi users to experience connectivity in a similar fashion to that experienced by cellular users.

Hotpot 2.0, HS 2.0 or Wi-Fi certified passpoint allows an 802.11u enabled device to connect automatically to an HS 2.0 network when it is within range.

For Hotspot 2.0, the network discovery, registration, provisioning and the access process are all automated so that the user does not need to go through the process manually to connect and remain connected.

The basic components required for implementing Wi-Fi Hotspot 2.0 Release 2
Wi-Fi Hotspot 2.0 basic components

There are several elements to the network and components required for a Hotspot 2.0 implementation. These differ between Release 1 an d Release 2. As HS 2.0 Release 2 is now being implemented, this is what is described.

  • HS 2.0 Access Point:   In order to be able to act as a Hotspot 2.0 access point, the router / AP needs to have the required HS 2.0 functionality within it.
  • Local AAA and OSU Server:   These elements include an number of entities required including: Provisioning Server; Subscriber Portal; AAA (Authentication, Authorization and Accounting); Certificate Authority; Profile Database; Identity Manager.
  • Roaming Hubs :   These provide the functionality and connectivity for movement between various Wi-Fi access points and operators.
  • Roaming Partners :   The blocks for the roaming partners include remote AAA servers; HLR / HSS, Subscriber Management Systems and OSU Servers.

Hotspot 2.0 releases

The Hotspot 2.0 standard has undergone updates, like all major standards:

  • HS 2.0 Release 1:   Hotspot 2.0, Release 1 introduced the basic concepts behind Hotspot 2.0. It introduced capabilities for automatic Wi-Fi network discovery, selection, and 802.1X authentication all based on the Access Network Query Protocol (ANQP).
  • HS 2.0 Release 2:   Release 2 introduced in October 2014 and included several improvements to enable far better operation of the basic Hotspot 2.0 concept. Release 2 introduces aspects for standardising the management of the credentials. Aspects including how these credentials are provisioned, stored on the device, and how they are used in network selection.

Hotspot 2.0 benefits

There are many benefits to the use and implementation of Hotspot 2.0 - Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint. These benefits relate to users and operators alike:

  • Much easier Wi-Fi access:   One of the key advantages for users is that Hotspot 2.0 provides much easier access to Wi-Fi networks. A single login is required to set the system up and then the system does the rest: searching for accessible networks and then gaining entry.
  • Enables new value streams:   The use of HS 2.0 enables operators to explore new services and revenue opportunities through inter-carrier Wi-Fi roaming, reaching new devices and new venues for the existing subscriber base.
  • Reduces churn:   The improved customer satisfaction through the ease of use of Wi-Fi will result in increased customer satisfaction and this in turn will reduce the level of churn
  • Offers high level of security:   The standards used in Hotpot 2.0 - Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint provide a very high level of security, above that normally offered by many non-Hotspt 2.0 Wi-Fi access points

Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint is seen by many as one of the foundations for the Wi-Fi roaming standards currently taking shape across the world. Not only will it provide better in-country access but it will also global roaming. Multi-operator trials on Passpoint-certified equipment are under way as part of the Next Generation Hotspot program.

By Ian Poole


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