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Wireless Trends,HotSpot 2.0

on the wireless community, which
convened in New Orleans for its annual
show: CTIA, for Cellular Telecommunications
Industry Association.

Perhaps not surprisingly, what’s
hot in wireless parallels what’s hot
in wired: That giant slurping sound
that is consumer broadband usage.

On the eve of CTIA, Sandvine,
a consistent counter of bandwidth,
released its latest data on wireless broadband
trends. It shows that we cellular subscribers
(meaning here in North America) are chewing up
309 Megabytes of broadband every month. Half is
streaming video, 21% is Web browsing and 10% is
Facebook and social networking.

(People in the Asia-Pacific region are eating up
602 MB per month. Heartening! One area of life
exists where we are not the most gluttonous!)

Also hot in wireless: Wi-Fi advancements, particularly
the body of work called “Hotspot 2.0.”

Which isn’t to say there was an official “Hotspot
1.0.” More that a community of people, including
Shaw Communications and Cisco Systems, among
others, got to wondering: What could you do with
Wi-Fi, if you could fix its current shortcomings?

That’s why HotSpot 2.0 is mostly focused on
getting rid of that big nuisance of Wi-Fi: finding
signal and authenticating in. If you’re like me, your
iPad pesters you constantly to sign up for a cellular
package with your carrier — which is tempting,
because otherwise finding signal involves the
ordeal of authentication.

HotSpot 2.0 works in the background to automatically
authenticate you and your gadgets, and
to keep you connected to signal, without having
to logon every time you move. In that sense, it’s
like roaming, for Wi-Fi.

Hard to imagine, at this stage of the game, but
operators like Shaw Communications are into it as
a way to attract new broadband customers, and
keep those they already have.

Businesses with waiting areas are an active target
for HotSpot 2.0, for instance, to keep all of us
happily heads-down while passing time.

What’s the technology of HotSpot 2.0? It’s a
roundup of extant stuff, and shepherded by the Wi-Fi
Alliance. Remember the IEEE 802.11 series? This
one is 802.11u, which provides all the protocol-level
“hooks” for infrastructure vendors to link up with
back-office services (proxy servers, user databases).
It also enables client devices (our stuff that needs
signal) to “learn” what roaming is available — which,
over time, is what obviates the logon.

Other HotSpot 2.0 components: the impressively
nerdy duo of “EAP-SIM,” and “EAM-TTLS,”
where “EAM” stands for “Extensible Authentication
Protocol,” “SIM” for “Subscriber Identity Module”
and “TTLS” for “Tunneled TLS Authentication Protocol.”
(That nested “TLS” stands for “Transport
Layer Security.” Iy-yi-yi.)

They’re all about those back-end handshakes
that happen so that we can keep using our digital
stuff. In the immortal language of Caddyshack: So
we got dat goin’ for us. Which is nice.

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