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Boingo kicks off hot spot to simplify wireless connections

Up now at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the new hot spot will eventually allow users to bounce from one secure network to another without having to log in.

Boingo has gone live with a hot spot that aims to take the hassle out of connecting to wireless networks.

The Wi-Fi provider announced Thursday the launch of its next-generation hot spot at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Dubbed Boingo Passpoint, the new hot spot promises a variety of benefits to mobile users.

Courtesy of roaming agreements between different carriers, you'll be able to seamlessly switch between a cellular and a Wi-Fi network. Your mobile device also will pick up the closest secure Wi-Fi network and automatically connect you without requiring a username or password.

Boingo Passpoint is based on projects spearheaded by two leading wireless organizations. Since the start of the year, the Wi-Fi Alliance has been certifying devices under its Passpoint initiative, also known as Hotspot 2.0. The equipment used by Boingo at O'Hare has been certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The Wireless Broadband Alliance also has been an active player by testing its Next Generation Hotspot standard with AT&T, T-Mobile, China Mobile, and other carriers around the world.

"We believe that carrier offload will be an important growth driver for Boingo and the Wi-Fi industry at large, especially as standards-based seamless offload methods like this become more prevalent in [the] market," Boingo Wireless CEO David Hagan said in a statement. "The sheer volume of users in high-volume, high-traffic locations like O'Hare Airport creates data demand thresholds that can tax traditional mobile networks; Wi-Fi offload via Passpoint creates additional data capacity for carriers without forcing users to jump through hoops."

The new hot spot is live but not yet ready for prime time. Mobile carriers, Wi-Fi operators, and device makers must first run Boingo Passpoint through a series of tests before mobile users can tap into it.

"This is a significant step forward for the WBA's Next Generation Hotspots vision becoming a commercial reality," Shrikant Shenwai, CEO for the Wireless Broadband Alliance, said in a statement. "Moving from the technical trials to major public hot spots provides more access to more members to test their implementations in real world conditions and should help the industry bring this to market in short order."