New Wi-Fi Tech Will Let Your Smartphone Hotspot-Hop
No more looking for hotspots. Your phone will do that automatically.
Land in a new city, switch on your smartphone, and, in a few seconds, you'll be connected to a local compatible cell carrier so you can call and surf just as if you'd never left home.
A plan is under way to create the same automatic connections to Wi-Fi hotspots — a technology known as Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint, aka Hotspot 2.0.
How does Passpoint work?
As you wander about, your smartphone will automatically detect and securely connect to the most powerful available Wi-Fi network, leaving the cellular 3G and 4G networks free to deal with voice calls.
The Passpoint program is being developed internationally, not just in the U.S., which means you'll get automatic connections anywhere in the world where there's Wi-Fi.
Why would I want it?
In most cases, Wi-Fi offers data speeds around 10 times faster than the latest LTE connections. At least a third of the 150 million worldwide hotspots are likely to support Certified Passpoint, providing a high-speed option in many spots where LTE isn't available.
Cell carriers will likely add monthly Passpoint Wi-Fi as a plan option along with voice, texting and data. But you could still save money if you then sign up for a smaller cellular data plan.
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You also can use a VoIP phone service such as Skype to make calls that continue uninterrupted as you move from one Passpoint hotspot to the next, allowing you to opt for a smaller bucket of monthly cell minutes.
Do I need a new phone?
There are no specifications to identify a smartphone or tablet as upgradable for Passpoint. But the Wi-Fi Alliance, the arbiter of all things Wi-Fi, has vaguely said that "current generation phones" should be upgradable.
Carriers or handset makers will label their devices – phones or tablets – as Passpoint-certified. If you bought one of these smartphones precertification, you'll likely need to upgrade its software to make it Passpoint compliant.
Thus far, two handsets have been officially Passpoint-certified: the new LG Optimus Vu and the Samsung Galaxy S III.
When will it roll out?
Passpoint field trials were supposed to start in June, but are now expected to begin in November. Consumer rollout should be in mid-2013.