WiFi access is everywhere. And with millions of public WiFi hotspots there’s no excuse for not staying connected. WiFi hotspots are great for when you’re out and about and need to access the internet to reply to your emails, check the train times or simply stream some music.

Public WiFi certainly has good points. It’s faster and more reliable than mobile broadband such as 3G or 4G, especially if the hotspot has a fibre optic connection, and it doesn’t use up your mobile data allowance.

But using public WiFi isn’t always without difficulties. It’s often open, making it vulnerable to wireless sniffers and without protection from a VPN (virtual private network), the data on your wireless device can be vulnerable to criminals. In addition, connecting to the hotspots can feel like a cumbersome process – you need to search for and choose a network, request the connection to the access point (AP) each time, and in many cases, re-enter your authentication credentials.

What’s being done?

Device makers and service providers have recognized the problems of using public WiFi and working together they have introduced a new program called Passpoint to address some of the issues of using WiFi hotspots. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, “Wi-Fi certified Passpoint™ will transform the way users connect to WiFi hotspot networks by making the process of finding and getting access to the right network seamless.”

Tell me more about Passpoint

Wi-Fi certified Passpoint™ launched in 2012 as an industry-wide solution to streamline access to WiFi network hotspots.

Once you have registered for Passpoint, there is no need to find and authenticate a network each time you connect – Passpoint’s automated service will do this for you, thereby maintaining a seamless connection between hotpoint networks and mobile devices. By doing this, Passpoint has eliminated the need for users to find and authenticate a network each time they connect. Instead, Passpoint allows you to sign up once, and then pass along your credentials to each of the hotspots the network supports.

Handy for everyone but especially if you’re the kind of person who is constantly on the move.

How does Passpoint work?

Passpoint works like the network of cell-phone towers that your phone uses. As you move through a city, for example, your phone’s signal is handed off from one tower to the next. Passpoint works the same way, allowing your mobile device to jump from one hotspot to the next.

What about security?

Because Passpoint also uses the highest WPA2™ security – it enables a more cellular-like experience when connecting to WiFi networks.  This is made possible because Passpoint was developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance® through partnerships between mobile device manufacturers, network equipment vendors, and operators.

Always keep in mind that no matter what you are using – a laptop, tablet, reader or mobile phone ­– wireless is inherently insecure and until Passpoint is everywhere, a VPN is an essential layer of protection for your wireless devices.

Having said that, Passpoint is great for millions of people now using wireless digital devices. Passpoint is essentially a “free” upgrade and in the future could enable millions of users to surf courtesy of WiFi hotspot providers without using up their wireless data plans.

Related Links

Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint and Next Generation Hotspot

How to Properly Secure Your Smartphone

Secure or not secure public WiFi. That is the question.