AT&T successfully completed a proof-of-concept trial of its Wi-Fi network with the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) OpenRoaming initiative in areas of downtown Austin, Texas.

AT&T is the first major operator to stage a trial deployment of WBA OpenRoaming in a high-density city network, according to WBA. The trial covered areas along 6th Street and the outside of Stubbs BBQ.

AT&T is a board member of WBA and has been at the forefront of this effort, so its engagement doesn’t come as a big surprise. Still, it’s worth recognizing as the whole OpenRoaming endeavor is supposed to make Wi-Fi roaming a lot more cellular-like and easy for consumers.

“A cultural hotspot like downtown Austin deserves the ultimate Wi-Fi hotspot: one that requires zero effort to access public Wi-Fi automatically, securely and reliably,” said JR Wilson, AT&T VP of Tower Strategy and Roaming, in a statement. “That’s exactly the kind of user experience AT&T is providing with Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint and WBA OpenRoaming. Once again, we’ve raised the bar for speed, security and convenience.”

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WBA OpenRoaming means users don’t have to go through the hassle of re-registering or re-entering login credentials every time they want to get online; it doesn’t rely on MAC addressing to enable users to join a network. Users are automatically connected every time they’re within range of a WBA OpenRoaming hotspot.

The WBA notes that while this initially is a proof-of-concept trial, the vision for OpenRoaming is one in which people will be able to stay connected in virtually any location across a city without worrying about potential security risks. It envisions future deployments in schools, libraries and other public venues and points to the WiFi4EU initiative in Europe, where secure access to the internet is available for research, educational and business activities.

“This trial is the first step to proving WBA OpenRoaming technology in a dense, urban location. This will be further developed during the summer of 2021 and commercial developments will come onboard,” said WBA CEO Tiago Rodrigues in a statement.

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The WBA announced last year that it was taking over ownership and management of OpenRoaming from Cicso, which had been working on it for about two years. It’s built on the foundation of Passpoint, also known as Hotspot 2.0, which allows people to automatically and securely connect to Wi-Fi networks. 

Cisco, AT&T, Comcast, Google, Samsung, American Tower, Boingo Wireless, Deutsche Telekom and Intel have been among the supporters of the effort.

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