Free and open WiFi isn’t a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity and demanded by people everywhere. In 2022, companies could be doing more to satisfy their guests – customers, patrons, visitors, etc. – and keep them coming back with a superior experience.
That’s where Passpoint comes in. Passpoint is easy to deploy and it benefits enterprises in more ways than they realize.
What is Passpoint (aka Hotspot 2.0)?
To clear up some confusion: Passpoint, Passpoint Secure WiFi and Hotspot 2.0 are practically synonymous.
Passpoint is based on the IEEE 802.11u standard and it is the brand for the Hotspot 2.0 certification program, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint®, operated by the WiFi Alliance. It is an industry-wide solution that streamlines WiFi access and eliminates the need for guests to find and authenticate a network each time they visit.
In the first release of Passpoint (Passpoint R1, 2012), the credentials were provisioned through the web-based downloading of a special file that contains profile and credential information. The installer for the profile would automatically launch and display some information before it’s accepted or declined by the user.
The second release (Passpoint R2, 2014) introduced a new way for users to sign up and securely access WiFi. When they choose online signup services from its list of available providers, the user will be notified that he or she can complete their registration by accepting the terms & conditions or requiring further validation such as phone number/email address verification before being given credentials.
The latest release (Passpoint R3, 2019) expands the standard in several areas:
- Simplifies the online sign-up, making the roaming much quicker and easier
- Offers stronger security, thanks to the WPA3-Enterprise standard
- Provides the capability of sharing location-specific information through CAPPORT API
- Supports three alternative fee charging models: time-based, on-demand, unlimited.
Why it’s time for Passpoint Secure WiFi
Until now, Passpoint has been mostly used by carriers for data offloading. However, with recent MAC randomization developments and security worries, Passpoint is becoming more relevant than ever before across all WiFi networks.
The most mobile devices in circulation now support Passpoint, including all devices with iOS7+ and Android 10+. Starting from Android 12, Passpoint will be enabled by default in all OEM vendors using Android.
Moreover today the majority of WiFi manufacturers are Passpoint-compatible, such as Cisco, Cisco Meraki, Mist Systems (Juniper Networks), Aruba Networks (HPE), Ruckus (Commscope), Extreme Networks, Fortinet, Huawei, Ubiquiti and Cambium Networks.
How Passpoint works
Passpoint grants instant, secure WiFi access to guests after once-in-a-lifetime provisioning of the Passpoint profile in their mobile device. Then, the enabled devices automatically connect to the company’s network whenever they arrive at any location.
Passpoint can be provisioned in different ways, depending on whether guests have downloaded the company’s mobile app.
Onboarding for guests with the mobile app
Guests with a mobile app only need to accept the company’s secure WiFi services in the app – enabled through a powerful WiFi location SDK. They view a call to action – such as a push notification or a banner– to add the company’s WiFi network among their preferred ones. The Passpoint profile is automatically provisioned.
This onboarding is a surefire way to make sure your on-site experience with mobile apps continues smoothly even when there is a cellular coverage issue.
Onboarding for guests without the mobile app
Guests without a mobile app can simply download the company’s Passpoint profile onto their devices from a web page whose link can be shared via multiple channels – email, text message, QR code, or captive portal. Then they can follow simple on-screen instructions. Guests can also be asked to share some personal information or accept some policies before downloading the Passpoint profile.
This onboarding ensures that WiFi services can be remotely provisioned, even before guests visit the physical location.
The core benefits of Passpoint for enterprises
According to the WiFi Alliance, Passpoint offers various benefits to carriers, service providers, and IT managers of enterprise networks, enabling:
- Mobile data offload
- WiFi roaming agreements across carriers and service providers
- Opportunities to engage users and extract additional value from the network
- WiFi–based services such as WiFi calling
- Streamlined, enterprise-class device provisioning and credential management for enterprise and other private networks
But what are the benefits of Passpoint Secure WiFi for enterprise? Here are the most relevant ones:
Passpoint R3 uses the latest WPA3 secure WiFi. Compared with WPA2, the third iteration of Protected Access is much harder to compromise. Hacking into WPA requires the would-be hacker to capture a WiFi handshake, and break the encrypted password. But with WPA3, this is a thing of the past. Every password attempt must interact with the WiFi connection directly, introducing an additional layer of security. What’s more, WPA3 encrypts all data sent through its network, even if the network is unsecured.
Free WiFi is a service that people expect in many sectors. Retail stores, restaurants, shopping centers, airports – even public spaces – come with the implicit assumption that there’s an available WiFi connection. It’s frustrating to guests when they’re forced to follow a long, tedious onboarding flow everytime they visit a company’s location. Automated network discovery ensures the experience is smooth.
Customer location data
WiFi enables companies to reveal guests’ actions and activities in real time inside their locations. This WiFi-generated information comes with a lot of untapped location-based use cases. Retailers, for example, can send timely, perfectly targeted messages when customers enter a location, when they visit a specific area or when they stay for a given amount of time. These location-based moments are great indicators of a customer’s propensity to purchase, and represent valuable opportunities for companies to interact with their customers.
WBA OpenRoaming is a roaming federation service, enabling an automatic and secure WiFi experience globally. With the right solution, companies can let guests automatically connect and authenticate the WiFi using their existing identities. At the same time, they can become an Identity Provider and distribute WiFi Profiles to their guests, letting them connect to their own network and to the other networks of the OpenRoaming federation.
Deploying Passpoint Secure WiFi
The need for Passpoint WiFi should be evident by now. But how do enterprises go about installing it?
Companies will need two main things: a compatible WiFi infrastructure and an appropriate deployment strategy.
As already discussed, the majority of WiFi infrastructures likely already support Passpoint and 100% of enterprise networks don’t require new investments.
Companies should consider what are the priorities in terms of WiFi service adoption for their guests when determining how best to deploy Passpoint. They must weigh several factors including digital adoption. Companies with a huge adoption of their mobile app – such as retailers, restaurants and banks – can simply enable their Passpoint by installing a location SDK in their mobile app, guaranteeing full app functionality regardless of mobile coverage in their locations.
Companies with a low mobile app adoption and no ecommerce site – such as shopping centers and airports – can install QR codes in their locations and collect information about their guests for marketing purposes. Companies with multiple sign-up channels – such as retailers – can just share the web link to enable Passpoint during the signing-up process.
The power of Passpoint
Passpoint offers automatic, secure WiFi that does away with the hassle. It’s the modern approach to WiFi. And it’s designed to be forgotten about by the guests once they have been authorized on a network.
Cloud4Wi is changing the way companies connect with their customers, helping enterprises offer their guests automated, portal-free Passpoint WiFi. Ready to unleash the power of your guest WiFi? Request a demo now