by david.nunes


802.11u and HotSpot 2.0 seen as essential technology to bring a 3G-like end user experience to Wi-Fi authentication and roaming around the world

Ruckus Wireless today announced that it will integrate support for the emerging IEEE 802.11u protocol within its Smart Wi-Fi system within the next 12 months, and said it has successfully completed its first demonstration of the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0 specification with a major U.S. operator.

With the explosive growth of new Wi-Fi-enabled devices, coupled with an exponential increase in data traffic hitting cellular networks, operators around the world are looking for solutions to offload data traffic onto higher bandwidth technologies such as Wi-Fi.  However, connecting to a public Wi-Fi network is often cumbersome, requiring users to manually select the network they would like to use and provision their devices to properly operate with the network.

Widely viewed as a significant evolutionary milestone for Wi-Fi as a technology, 802.11u and Hotspot 2.0 address these problems by simplifying the use and integration of Wi-Fi within mobile cellular networks.

A common set of standards created by the Wi-Fi Alliance, Hotspot 2.0 uses 802.11u as a fundamental building block to effectively automate the network discovery, registration, and access steps a Wi-Fi user must manually take today when connecting to a given hotspot.

“With the help of Hotspot 2.0 and 802.11u, the Wi-Fi industry is turning a corner,” said Steve Martin, vice president of engineering for Ruckus Wireless.  “No longer is Wi-Fi regarded as the ugly stepchild within the mobile network operator community.  The realisation that Wi-Fi is a complete complement to cellular mobile networks in addressing critical capacity issues is quickly becoming a reality.”

It’s all about U

With 802.11u and Hotspot 2.0, users automatically connect and authenticate to the best available Wi-Fi network without having to fiddle with tedious configuration settings on their devices – providing an experience comparable to how cellphones work when users roam to a new location with the phone automatically determining, connecting to, and authenticating with the best cellular network.

802.11u and Hotspot 2.0 support requires changes to occur on both Wi-Fi access points and consumer electronics devices such as smartphones or tablets.  802.11u-capable Wi-Fi access points advertise their support for the protocol – providing information to client devices prior to association, such as the external networks which are accessible via a particular hotspot, or what security mechanisms are supported. Parsing this information, client devices can decide what network is most suitable and automatically configure settings to connect to the desired Wi-Fi network.

Hotspot 2.0 offers the future possibility of a range of benefits for operators looking to optimise their mobile network infrastructure such as:

– Selectively offloading IP traffic that doesn’t need to traverse cellular core networks
– Improving the end-user experience on Wi-Fi hotspots
– Automated network selection, authentication and roaming by devices
– Flexible authentication options to support multiple devices and roaming agreements
– In-band account provisioning
– Network type advertisements (private, free public, paid public)
– Network capability advertisements through the new layer 2 protocols
– Service advertisement and monetisation

A better Wi-Fi experience, just in time

802.11u and Hotspot 2.0 are hitting the market at a time when soaring demand for wireless connectivity is driving the proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots.  According to a new report by In-Stat Research entitled “Wi-Fi Hotspots: the Mobile Operator’s 3G Offload Alternative,” worldwide hotspot venues are projected to increase to over 1.2 million venues in 2015 from under 421,000 in 2010.  Usage will follow similar growth, increasing from four billion connects in 2010 to 120 billion by 2015.

In a recent proof of concept with a national U.S. operator, Ruckus successfully demonstrated Hotspot 2.0 support.  In this demonstration, the client devices automatically established a secure link with different encryption keys for each user using WPA2-Enterprise (802.1X)-based authentication.  This eliminates any susceptibility to MAC spoofing and allows the network to authenticate a client device while the client device authenticates the network.

Additionally, the Hotspot 2.0 demonstration showed how 802.11u-capable client devices could automatically select and connect to a preferred Wi-Fi home network when available, as well as connect to a roaming network allowed by operator policy – all with no user intervention.

With additional Hotspot2.0 capabilities, which are still under development, it is expected that service providers will be able to automatically push new network selection policies to client devices.  In the event a provider strikes a new Wi-Fi partnership, the subscriber’s device automatically knows how to select the new hotspots that become available through their existing subscriptions.

Ruckus is participating in the effort within the Wi-Fi Alliance to develop a certification program for Hotspot 2.0 and will be participating in the Wireless Broadband Alliance-sponsored initial operator trials for its Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) interoperability initiative.  802.11u and Hotspot 2.0 support are expected to be delivered as free software upgrades for Ruckus access points and controllers when released in 2012.


About Ruckus Wireless
Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Ruckus Wireless is supplier of advanced wireless systems for the mobile networking market. The company markets and manufactures a wide range of indoor and outdoor “Smart Wi-Fi” products for mobile operators, broadband service providers and corporate enterprises. Ranked as the top telecom company in the 2009 Inc. Magazine 500 list and named a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, Ruckus Wireless has realised dramatic growth. With nearly 50 patents granted to date, Ruckus invented state-of-the-art wireless technology that focuses and directs signals over the best performing paths, automatically adapting them to changing environmental conditions. This unique capability extends signal range and ensures consistent reliable distribution of delay-sensitive multimedia content and services over standard 802.11 Wi-Fi. The company has raised $51 million in funding from premier investors such as Sequoia Capital, Focus Ventures, Sutter Hill, Motorola, T–Ventures, Telus Ventures and Firelake Capital. The company is led by Ms. Selina Lo, president and chief executive officer. For more information, visit Ruckus Wireless at


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