The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has announced the successful completion of rigorous testing around the deployment of WBA OpenRoaming, priming the innovative Wi-Fi roaming standard for adoption throughout Europe.
This brings the possibility of a fast, secure, and seamless public Wi-Fi experience one step closer for citizens, visitors and businesses in the region. It enables privacy and compliance with GDPR with Wi-Fi roaming between municipalities and other networks.
The testing, which was carried out by WBA members together with several municipalities in Belgium, included assessing the viability and compatibility of iOS and Android smartphones, laptops and tablets.
As part of the trial, equipment was used from a variety of Wi-Fi AP manufacturers including WBA members Cisco and Ruckus Networks. Credentials from Identity Providers (IDPs) including eduroam and Google – also WBA members – were also tested, and different connection methods were employed to guarantee municipalities would have the flexibility to seamlessly interconnect using the OpenRoaming standard.
This resulted in enabling end users, including residents, visitors, and businesses with credentials from different providers, like eduroam and Google, to be able to roam seamlessly across all the different municipalities Wi-Fi networks participating on this trial who are also part of the WIFI4EU Program.
The WIFI4EU Program is a funding initiative to accelerate digitalization across the continent with over 29,000 municipalities registered, and over 6,000 already fully implemented. It aims to deploy Wi-Fi in public spaces including parks, squares, public buildings, libraries, health centers, museums and more.
WBA OpenRoaming, an innovative Wi-Fi roaming standard managed by the WBA, frees users from constantly re-registering or re-entering log-in credentials, enabling the convenience of instant network access combined with enterprise/carrier-level security. With its adoption, municipalities can offer citizens and businesses a virtual city-wide carrier-grade internet experience by bridging the gap between cellular and Wi-Fi technology and ensuring their interoperability. A key differentiator for OpenRoaming is the ability to ensure the privacy of the individual – an increasingly hot topic on public Wi-Fi networks and complies with European GDPR policies – and that it is not impacted by MAC address rotation within user devices.
The results from the trials in Belgium conclude that OpenRoaming is primed to provide Wi-Fi roaming with security and privacy between municipalities and any type of venue that provides public Wi-Fi. The platform has also been confirmed to offer a truly seamless, secure, and private browsing experience for all European citizens and visitors.
The trial demonstrated the readiness of the industry to accommodate and welcome OpenRoaming, with several of the municipalities in Belgium having already deployed OpenRoaming. The WBA OpenRoaming standard ensures the privacy of citizens and visitors is fully protected through a robust federation-wide legal framework with signaling between federation members being protected by certificate-based encryption.
Deployments in these municipalities will facilitate seamless and secure Wi-Fi access in schools, libraries, and other public domains, enabling secure access to the internet for research, schooling, and business activities. Hotels, conference centers, restaurants, bars, and retailers also stand to benefit from OpenRoaming technology, presenting brands with opportunities to increase consumer engagement as seamless city-wide connectivity becomes a reality.
Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of WBA, shared: “This pilot with a group of municipalities in Belgium utilized the most common consumer devices, smartphones, laptops, tablets, and using Wi-Fi networks from different manufacturers validates the benefit of using a standard like WBA OpenRoaming to make life easier for consumers, visitors and residents, it also creates valuable new business opportunities for any operator, venue or retailer looking to develop its Wi-Fi services.
From libraries to coffee shops, concert halls to sports facilities, WBA OpenRoaming creates a world where Wi-Fi users can move from one network to another without the hassle of being disconnected and having to sign in again. The phase two trial represents the latest step in the WBA’s mission to close the digital gap and create a more connected world.”
Cedric Halin, Mayor of the Municipality of Olne said: “As the Mayor of Olne, known for the beauty of the countryside and of the village, I am delighted with the very positive feedback from the citizens and visitors but also from schools and associations who benefit from the Wi-Fi network deployed inside and outside public buildings. Further, with the recent implementation of OpenRoaming, the access to the network becomes even easier as the user is automatically connected to the hotspot when he reaches another location covered by the OpenRoaming network. As a small city, we are really honored to be among the first in Europe to deliver such an innovative service to the community.”
Stefan Winter for eduroam said: “We are excited about the good results of the recent successful Belgium trial with using eduroam identities on OpenRoaming hotspots: the trial showed that technical interoperability between eduroam and OpenRoaming is assured, enabling significantly more Wi-Fi coverage to eduroamers. Our vision is that both eduroam Identity Providers and eduroam end users will be able to easily opt-in to using OpenRoaming hotspots with their existing eduroam identities; while the eduroam backend infrastructure reduces the technical complexities behind opt-in.”
Matt MacPherson, Wireless CTO at Cisco commented: “Closing the digital divide with municipal, public Wi-Fi is more important now than ever before, and OpenRoaming can play an important role in ensuring easy, secure access to crucial digital resources. OpenRoaming is a perfect complement to a municipal Wi-Fi network, as it breaks down barriers to access and ensures the public are getting the greatest value out of the network. Public Wi-Fi enabled with OpenRoaming opens up new and exciting opportunities for any municipality.”
Bart Giordano, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Ruckus Networks said: “Ruckus Networks supports OpenRoaming with its SmartZone™ control and management platform. We believe that this initiative will deliver seamless connectivity experiences for users of Wi-Fi enabled devices worldwide. Successful completion of this trial brings us closer to that goal.”