Mobile phone maker Ericsson and communications components manufacturer Agere Systems, yesterday announced their plan to create Wi-Fi solutions, which could mean users will no longer have to connect to designated hotspots or even stick to one service provider.

The companies are working on Wi-Fi solutions that connect to service providers' network hubs to enable user authentication and billing, meaning users can roam between networks.

"Together with Ericsson, we will clear the last hurdle to enabling widespread deployment of Wi-Fi networks in public spaces," said Ron Torten, vice president of Agere's networking and entertainment division.

"Whether you're stuck in an airport or preparing a customer presentation in a hotel or cafe, easy access to your information is only a couple of keystrokes away," added Torten.

The WLAN product package for mobile operators, due out in the second quarter of next year, will work with existing infrastructure and billing systems.

Agere will develop software and manufacture the silicon, Ericsson will handle the integration with current mobile networks and wireless network expert Proxim will supply the access points.

The offering is to be based on the 802.11b standard, also known as Wi-Fi, for WLANs operating in the 2.4GHz spectrum with a bandwidth of 11Mbps (megabits per second).

Payment will be handled using SIM (subscriber identification module), chips about the size of a postage stamp used today in GSM (global system for mobile communications) phones to authenticate the user on a mobile network.

The solution will use combined SIM and Wi-Fi technology, allowing laptop users to access their company's network from anywhere — even on the train.

Industry analyst Cahners In-Stat estimates the total number of mobile PCs shipped with wireless LAN capabilities will increase form today's 18 percent to 76 percent by 2006.