Automatic and seamless roaming across Wi-Fi 6 and 5G beckons

Ali Amer, MD, service provider sales, Cisco MEA, explains why OpenRoaming will be a game-changer for wireless consumers

With OpenRoaming, users will be able to get onto Wi-Fi seamlessly and securely the second they walk into a participating location.
With OpenRoaming, users will be able to get onto Wi-Fi seamlessly and securely the second they walk into a participating location.

Imagine you’re at the airport and you want to get on Wi-Fi to download a movie before your flight. You have the choice to connect to the Airport Free Wi-Fi, Airport Wi-Fi SFO, AirNet SFO or stay connected through your mobile data.

If you chose  to connect through cellular, you’re not alone. Getting on Wi-Fi in public environments is often not worth the hassle of providing personal information or using an insecure username and password, even considering the alternative of paying for data through your cellular company. But what if getting on Wi-Fi was as easy and secure as getting on cellular?

It is possible, and we’re going to make it happen.

With OpenRoaming, an initiative being led by Cisco, you’ll be able to get onto Wi-Fi seamlessly and securely the second you walk into a participating location. Device users can employ one of their existing identities like their Samsung ID, their mobile SIM card or a cloud provider to sign into OpenRoaming once, granting them seamless access to participating wireless networks around the world. The service will be free to users, secure, and fast. With OpenRoaming, you’ll never have to guess which Wi-Fi network to use, suffer through a pop-up captive portal or use an insecure username and password again. You will be connected wherever you go so you can download, stream, video chat and game to your heart’s desire.

What is OpenRoaming?

Using the underlying technology behind HotSpot 2.0, an established industry standard, Cisco is leading a broad federation of identity providers and wireless access networks that will enable seamless and secure wireless access for all users. All Wi-Fi connections will be secured over the air with industry-standard, enterprise-grade security protocols. This focus on security specifically addresses man-in-the-middle attacks or over the air sniffing. Additionally, the owner of the Wi-Fi network you’re connecting to won’t have any access to your personal data unless you explicitly allow it.

To ensure a high quality of service, every network that you connect to with OpenRoaming will be certified by Cisco to ensure that you are receiving the fastest and safest connection possible.

OpenRoaming will also help accelerate the adoption of other emerging wireless access technologies that will help 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks work better together. With the ability to access more applications through more bandwidth and reliability, users will gain an enhanced wireless experience as they move between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks.

For the good of all

OpenRoaming is clearly good for users, but it’s also great for businesses that operate guest Wi-Fi networks. If you run a retail or other public-access location, imagine being able to significantly accelerate your guest Wi-Fi attach rate at the click of a button. The amount of data you can gather about how people use your physical space can be leveraged to better understand your consumers’ patterns and create an improved user experience in your store. Using Cisco DNA Spaces, you can understand how users are walking through your property, where they spend the most time, how long they are connected and other powerful location-based metrics. None of this data reveals the private communications or transactions people are using their phones for.

Customers, knowing they can rely on good data coverage in your store (something not guaranteed with cellular), are more likely to use your apps that are designed to increase their engagement with your products. Connected customers are happy customers.

Identity providers – like mobile carriers or cloud providers – can extend their networks, increase stickiness on their platform and provide a value-added, location-specific service to their customers.

This is an exciting time for Wi-Fi. The new standard, Wi-Fi 6, will bring higher data rates, lower latency, increased capacity and better overall performance to wireless. Connecting users seamlessly will be more important than ever. OpenRoaming will change the way users access networks and move the industry forward toward more ubiquitous connectivity.

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