Ruckus Wireless will integrate support for the emerging IEEE 802.11u protocol within its Smart Wi-Fi system within the next 12 months.

Widely viewed as a significant evolutionary milestone for Wi-Fi as a technology, 802.11u and Hotspot 2.0 simplify the use and integration of Wi-Fi within mobile cellular networks. A common set of standards created by the Wi-Fi Alliance, Hotspot 2.0 uses 802.11u as a fundamental building block to effectively automate the network discovery, registration, and access steps a Wi-Fi user must manually take today when connecting to a given hotspot.

"With the help of Hotspot 2.0 and 802.11u, the Wi-Fi industry is turning a corner," said Steve Martin, vice president of engineering for Ruckus Wireless, in a statement. "No longer is Wi-Fi regarded as the ugly stepchild within the mobile network operator community. The realization that Wi-Fi is a complete complement to cellular mobile networks in addressing critical capacity issues is quickly becoming a reality."

With 802.11u and Hotspot 2.0, users automatically connect and authenticate to the best available Wi-Fi network without having to fiddle with tedious configuration settings on their devices – providing an experience comparable to how cellphones work when users roam to a new location with the phone automatically determining, connecting to, and authenticating with the best cellular network.

802.11u and Hotspot 2.0 support requires changes to occur on both Wi-Fi access points and consumer electronics devices such as smartphones or tablets. 802.11u-capable Wi-Fi access points advertise their support for the protocol – providing information to client devices prior to association, such as the external networks which are accessible via a particular hotspot, or what security mechanisms are supported. Parsing this information, client devices can decide what network is most suitable and automatically configure settings to connect to the desired Wi-Fi network.

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