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The WiFi Alliance said its Passpoint program, announced yesterday, aims to make WiFi a “true extension of service provider networks,” letting users roam from one hotspot to another with no manual effort.

“With Passpoint, devices automatically identify and join WiFi networks, and users are not required to complete a cumbersome manual login process,” says the WiFi Alliance. “Passpoint also automatically configures industry-standard WPA2 security protections without user intervention. Passpoint certification for network equipment and end user devices is expected to begin in June, and is based on the WiFi Alliance Hotspot 2.0 Specification.”

A cell phone’s SIM card could be used to authenticate mobile users to WiFi hotspots. The advantages include the elimination of password hassles. Service providers can divert traffic away from congested cellular networks onto (previously) free WiFi networks.

The Passpoint program is complementary to a new revision of the IEEE’s 802.11 WiFi standard, which was announced yesterday. It supports faster devices and features better handoff between cellular and WiFi networks.

The new IEEE 802.11-2012 spec is the fourth revision of the standard to be released since its initial publication in 1997. IEEE 802.11-2012 consolidates 10 amendments to the base standard that have been approved since 802.11’s last full revision. IEEE 802.11n, for example, defined MAC and PHY modifications to enable a maximum of 600Mb/s. Support for the 3650 – 3700 MHz band and vehicular environments, mesh networking, security, broadcast/multicast and unicast data delivery, interworking with external networks as well as network management are also included.

According to a study by Informa Telecoms, WiFi deployments will shoot up 350% worldwide by 2015, making WiFi access even more ubiquitous.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) also released the 802.15.4g radio standard, a global wireless networking standard enabling interoperable communications between smart grid devices, including smart meters and smart home appliances. This standard, published on April 28, 2012 is an important fundamental standard for the large-scale smart grid networks. It will allow millions of devices to interoperate with each other in mesh, star, point-to-point, or any other topology. At its heart, 802.15.4 is a protocol developed for low-duty-cycle, mostly sleeping devices, with potentially thousands of these devices in a single network, all sharing the same channel.

Key industry players Elster, Itron, Landis+Gyr, NICT, and Silver Spring Networks were active participants in shaping the standard, striving to ensure backward compatibility with existing deployed devices, and ensuring that features necessary for long-term operation.

The RF mesh network used for Automatic Meter Reading networks have historically been proprietary. Silver Spring Networks carved out a leadership position in the wave of AMI deployments starting in 2008-2009 by offering an IPv6-based system. However, due to a lack of available standards, the radio and mesh protocols underneath the IP-layers remained proprietary. Now, with the “IEEE 802.15.4g” standard, the field is anticipated to grow fast, according to Pike Research.

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