Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint™: An essential and strategic solution for service provider Wi-Fi® deployments (2014)

Once found only at home and in coffee shops and hotels, the Wi-Fi® hotspot has become ubiquitous. Indeed, Cisco is predicting a four-fold increase in Wi-Fi hotspots from 2013, to 55 million hotspots worldwide by 20181.

Several factors drive this growth:

  • Ubiquity of Wi-Fi in mobile devices like tablets, smartphones, and laptops
  • End-user appetite for public high-speed Wi‑Fi connectivity
  • Investment in Wi-Fi networks by fixed broadband providers as a means to extend their services to subscribers outside the home
  • Widening support by mobile operators of Wi‑Fi hotspots as a means to offload traffic from congested mobile phone networks and to improve the end-user experience
  • New opportunities in sectors such as retail and hospitality, where the value of a Wi-Fi network extends beyond a customer amenity into value-driving service

Historically, the procedure to connect in a hotspot has been cumbersome and highly variable from location to location. Also, a secure connection that prevents data theft is often the exception, rather than the rule.

Wi‑Fi Alliance® created the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint™ program to revolutionize the end-user experience at Wi-Fi hotspots. With Passpoint, Wi-Fi devices connect to hotspots as effortlessly and securely as they do to cellular towers. Passpoint also enables all hotspot operators (broadband and mobile service providers, retailers, hoteliers, and social networks, just to name a few) to extract more business value from investments in Wi-Fi.

Passpoint certification defines several features, including:

  • In-pocket connection experience: Wi-Fi devices identify and associate with Passpoint-enabled networks in the background, without any active intervention from the subscriber. Authentication no longer requires a browser-based sign-on. Instead, devices are authenticated automatically, using Extensible Authentication Protocols (EAP) based on a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM), a username and password, or certificate credentials.
  • Registration and provisioning: A streamlined process to establish a new user account at the point of access, drives a common provisioning methodology across vendors
  • Policy: Passpoint also employs mechanisms to support operator-specific subscriber policies, including network selection policy
  • Secure access: All connections are secured with WPA2™‑Enterprise, which provides a level of security comparable to that of cellular networks

This white paper describes Passpoint features within the context of the marketplace, and explains how Passpoint devices can transform an end user’s Wi-Fi experience. For a technical description of the technologies that support Passpoint, see the Hotspot 2.0 (Release 2) Technical Specification.


1 Cisco, “The Zettabyte Era—Trends and Analysis,” 2014.

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