Wi-Fi Alliance to ease access to Wi-Fi hot spots

Group is working on ways to make it easier and quicker for people to connect to public Wi-Fi hot spots, promising a certified solution by the first half of next year.

Connecting to public Wi-Fi hot spots can be a challenge, but the Wi-Fi Alliance is hoping to ease some of the pain.

Responsible for certifying Wi-Fi products and technology, the Wi-Fi Alliance said yesterday that it's working on a new certification program that should make it easier to access and use public hot spots. Various members of the alliance, including service providers and device makers, have already formalized the requirements needed to test such a certification program.

Once in place, the new hot spot program would offer several benefits to Wi-Fi users.

Computers, phones, and other connected gadgets would discover and choose the right Wi-Fi networks to access based on user preferences, network speed, and other conditions. Certain devices would be given automatic access to the network by using such products as SIM cards, which can store the necessary log-in credentials and are already used in phones and other cellular gadgets.

The process of configuring a new user account would run smoother by cutting out certain steps and ensuring a more common setup among different vendors. Finally, the program would address security concerns over using unprotected public hot spots by encrypting all data over the network through the WPA2 standard.

The new program would also help ease the strain on overtaxed cellular networks by more seamlessly handing off data from those networks to available Wi-Fi hot spots.

"Ensuring end users can easily access hot spot networks from various providers is a win for subscribers, service providers, and device makers alike," Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said in a statement. "We envision an automated, cellular-like experience for Wi-Fi users around the world in security-protected service provider hot spots."

Following a testing period this year, the Wi-Fi Alliance is hoping to certify the new program by the first half of 2012.

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