It will be up to carriers and other hotspot operators to form roaming agreements that include Wi-Fi hotspots, but the Alliance believes they will be motivated to do so in order to take subscribers off their cellular networks as much as possible.
Getting on to Wi-Fi hotspots isn't necessarily hard to do, but travelers who need Wi-Fi often may need to have a large number of separate accounts for various services, said analyst Craig Mathias of Farpoint Group. A specification that helped hotspot operators establish roaming could help to solve that problem.
Though the Alliance's goal of having carriers all over the world sign on to this service is ambitious, Mathias believes many carriers will join in. It's worth their effort to encourage Wi-Fi use, he said.
"Long term, the carriers have to be excited about Wi-Fi, because they don't have the spectrum they need to do everything they want to do," Mathias said.
The end result of carriers deploying more Wi-Fi and allowing easy sign-on and roaming will be better service for subscribers, Mathias said. Consumers are likely to see better performance even as the carriers save money by deploying wireless LANs instead of more base stations. However, roaming among carriers' Wi-Fi hotspots rather than their cellular data networks won't necessarily be less expensive for subscribers, Mathias said.
"You charge by value delivered to the consumer, not by cost," he said. The only factor that may drive down the price of connecting is competition, he said.
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