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Operators join forces to simplify international Wi-Fi roaming

Users will be able to access more hotspots in the same way they do at home

A group of operators including AT&T, Boingo Wireless, BT and China Mobile have joined forces to work on a common framework for Wi-Fi roaming to make it easier for users to access hotspots while travelling abroad.

Mobile operators have come to see public Wi-Fi as an important part of their networks as they face growing data usage volumes. But processes for users to connect to and roam on to Wi-Fi networks are still fragmented, according to the Wireless Broadband Association.

The industry organization leads the Wi-Fi Roaming Interoperability Compliancy Program (ICP), which aims to change that by specifying guidelines on user authentication, network selection and billing mechanisms. The goal is to make it easier for operators to enter into roaming agreements, it said.

Users will benefit from having access to an increased number of Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide, and users can also expect to be able to access hotspots in the same way they do at home.

The first trial of the program was launched on Dec. 17 and the plan is to launch it by May or June next year, according to the WBA. Some of the key elements of ICP are already in place, including common templates and technical requirements, a WBA spokeswoman said via email.

KT, NTT DoCoMo, PCCW, Shaw Communications, Smart Communications and True are also participating.

This isn't the first time the participants have worked together to allow for Wi-Fi roaming. Last week NTT DoCoMo and Boingo announced a partnership that allows NTT DoCoMo users to access Boingo's hotspots and vice versa.

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