IDA joins Intel on wireless initiative

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is working with Intel Corp. to harmonize standards that will support single authentication, single billing and seamless connectivity across diverse data communication networks including wireless LANs, wireless WANs and fixed WANs.

Intel’s chief technology officer Pat Gelsinger said the joint effort was the first program to cross so many boundaries — standards, geographies, networks, vendors, service providers — to pull together an environment for developing seamless wireless connectivity.

The US$2.2 million IDA-Intel Wireless Hotspots and Network Interworking Initiative will address the technical challenges that are currently impeding interoperability between wireless and fixed networks, said IDA’s chief executive officer Tan Ching Yee.

Today, limitations on wireless roaming still inhibit the growth of Wi-Fi and other forms of wireless data communications. Gerry Greeve, vice-president and general manager of Intel Asia Pacific, gave the example of a mobile worker travelling from Narita Airport in Japan to Changi Airport in Singapore. The online experience would involve starting and ending separate sessions with separate networks run by possibly seven different service providers.

To overcome these obstacles, three things have to happen, he said. The connection has to be simple, there has to be a single bill, and the service providers will need to have reasonable returns on the services and technologies that they provide.

Elaborating on the scope of the IDA-Intel collaboration, Patrick Pang, senior manager of the Wireless Mobility Development Division in IDA’s Infocomm Development Group, said issues to be addressed include authentication, a single mechanism to log on to different networks; one-bill roaming, which involves the handover of billing records from the backend system of one service provider to another; and seamless roaming, so that users do not have to close one session to start another.

The first part of the collaboration is an Interworking Study which uses an Intel Framework Document as a starting point for the joint development of a standardized roaming architecture. The study will be conducted with international operators and vendors.

IDA has invited vendors and service providers to take part in the collaboration. It will announce list of partners in about two months’ time.

Parallel to the Interworking Study will be a series of interoperability lab tests, which will be led by IDA. The tests seek to provide technical verification and validation of multi-vendor interoperability, and AAA configuration across the backend systems of the different players involved. The Interworking Study is expected to be completed in August this year, while the interoperability tests will end in February 2004.