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Apple’s iOS 7 supports top Wi-Fi features

Apple recently announced that it has already sold nine million 5s and 5c iPhones. Reports revealed that some 200 million existing iOS devices have already been updated to its new iOS 7RuckusWireless_NaderBaghdadi_2013

Nader Baghdadi, Regional Director MENA

Typical of any Apple product announcement, tech writers, bloggers, and vendors have covered a lot of the new features that the iOS 7 offers, but one can say they have missed the bigger story.

The most significant new features in iOS 7 are the supporting Wi-Fi features for 802.11u and Hotspot 2.0.

While not all of the 200 million Apple devices said to be updated to iOS 7 will support Hotspot 2.0 (older iPhones, iPads and iPods currently do not), it’s certainly a very large number of about 50 or 60 million new Hotspot 2.0-capable mobile devices that have quickly appeared almost overnight.

Samsung was the first to bring Hotspot 2.0 back into play in April with the launch of the Galaxy S4. However, Apple has taken over now with the release of the iOS 7. It’s this growing momentum that’s behind some of the recent operator announcements of open trials of Hotspot 2.0 on their networks.

Industry players have been working with the iOS 7 Hotspot 2.0 implementation for some time now and have successfully tested iOS devices using EAP-SIM, EAP-TLS, and EAP-TTLS.

The inner workings of 802.11u and Hotspot 2.0 are true technical artistry, and the result is simply that devices just work – automatically selecting a network for which its credential(s) are valid, and then setting up a WPA2 encrypted connection to the network using the credential.

It is interesting to see that the most significant aspect of Apple’s Hotspot 2.0 solution doesn’t even involve the device. It’s the updated Apple Configurator Utility (ACU), which now can generate iOS Hotspot 2.0 mobile configuration profiles. There is no radio button or slider anywhere in the iOS 7 settings to enable Hotspot 2.0 or Passpoint™.

Instead Hotspot 2.0 is enabled, and the credential and its parameters provisioned, by loading a mobile configuration profile onto the device. For those familiar with iOS profile generation and distribution this will immediately give rise to some interesting possibilities. Once created, these profiles can be delivered to an iOS device via e-mail, HTTP or HTTPS.

One of the big issues with enabling devices for Hotspot 2.0 up until now has been the question of how to provision the credential to the device (with the exception of SIM credentials, which could be utilised with default parameters on the Galaxy S4 simply by turning on Passpoint).

With the ACU and iOS 7, an operator, authentication provider, or enterprise could generate the Hotspot 2.0 profiles, digitally sign them, and then send them to the end users for installation. This architecture has been widely used to provision Apple BYOD in the enterprise, and can now be used by operators to provision their subscribers with Hotspot 2.0 credentials as well. The one thing that is missing is the ability to provision any type of policy or preference for how the credential is utilised. That is one area that The Wi-Fi Alliance is focusing on with Hotspot 2.0 (Release 2), along with a standardised architecture for Online Signup and OTA credential provisioning.


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