Telecoms Providers in Africa Invited to Join Global Wi-Fi Roaming Consortium

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) today announced that it is inviting organisations across the global to join its WBA OpenRoaming™, a globally available Wi-Fi federation which allows devices to automatically link to millions of WiFi networks globally.

Companies who join WBA OpenRoaming can allow end users to automatically connect on any Wi-Fi network managed by a federation member, simplifying Wi-Fi, much like the cellular roaming experience, they said.

Biztech Africa spoke to the CEO of WBA, Tiago Rodrigues and Matthew MacPherson, Wireless CTO at Cisco about what this means for African telecoms organisations, security measures in place and end-users.

They said that companies who join WBA OpenRoaming are included in a federation of identity and network providers. Equipment vendors, identity providers, venues and operators – as well as private and public Wi-Fi networks – can join WBA OpenRoaming™ and immediately become part of the global ecosystem and help to shape the future of the federation.

To use OpenRoaming, the end user will need one identity that will be given to them by either an operator, an internet provider or a cloud services provider, Rodrigues said . If they have any problems they will contact the company who gave them their identity. The company in turn can get in touch with the Wi-Fi federation who will work with them to see if there is any technical issue, added Rodrigues.

“Wi-Fi is already arguably the most successful wireless technology of our time, but with these globally agreed standards and policies, we can take public-guest Wi-Fi to another level in terms of ease-of-use and global availability,” Rodrigues declared.

The benefits

In terms of benefits to the operators, WBA OpenRoaming provides a new global standards-led approach, removing public-guest Wi-Fi connectivity barriers and bringing greater convenience and security to the wireless ecosystem, MacPherson said.

He also explained how small and medium African telecoms companies would directly benefit from the consortium. Because it is so easy to join a small company can participate in global roaming just like a big company and it can bring all the services available to them regardless of size, he said.

For end-users, WBA OpenRoaming removes the need to search for Wi-Fi networks, to repeatedly enter or create login credentials, or to constantly reconnect or re-register to public Wi-Fi.

“No more SSID-password guessing games, insecure login credentials or reconnecting to public Wi-Fi. From enterprises to coffee shops, concert venues to connected cars, WBA OpenRoaming creates a world where Wi-Fi users move from one network to another without needing to constantly re-register or sign-in,” MacPherson said.

Opportunities for implementation in Africa

“Now that we are open for business we are looking to sign on as many identity holders and access networks as possible,” said MacPherson.

He also explained that the remainder of 2020 and going into the next would see an increase in the adoption of OpenRoaming technology in Africa and other countries.

Rodrigues noted that he had been in conversation with the Alliance for Affordable Internet, who have several projects and initiatives with different governments in Africa, and how the WBA would like to develop some implementations and initial trials  of OpenRoaming with different operators.

He added that Universities in Africa could be a good starting point to use the new OpenRoaming technology.

Security issues addressed

MacPherson emphasised how secure the use of OpenRoaming Wi-Fi  would be with the federation, as it is actually a certificate authority, and when you join as an IDP and as an access network provider you would be given a certificate. “When you do an authentication, you use those certificates to create a secure encrypted tunnel from the access network to the identity holder so that you can make sure the transaction is secure,” said MacPherson. “It’s less worrisome in this architecture than it is with what people are doing now,” he added.

The WBA also said that a number of international telecoms players have already embraced the concept of OpenRoaming. They noted that the list of organisations who are among the first to embrace OpenRoaming™ to power new opportunities in the 5G era are Airmesh, Airties, Aprecomm, American Tower, Aptilo, AT&T, Boingo Wireless, Broadcom Inc, Cisco, Cityroam, Comcast, Commscope, Deutsche Telekom, Eduroam, Eleven Software,GlobalReachTechnology, Google, Hub One, Hughes Systique Corp, Intel Corporation, IT&E, m3connect, Nomosphere, Orange, Purple Wi-Fi, Samsung, Single Digits, Sun Global, Veniam, WifiCoin and Zephyrtel.

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