Telcos join Intel’s Asian Wi-Fi roaming initiative

Five Asian telecommunication companies have joined an initiative, backed by Intel Corp. and Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), to develop technology that will enable users to roam between wireless LAN hotspots, according to a joint statement released Monday.

The IDA-Intel Wireless Hotspots and Network Interworking Initiative, announced in March, is conducting an internetworking study to explore ways to connect fixed-line and wireless networks and conduct interoperability tests on networking equipment. The goal of the two partners is to create an environment where users can seamlessly roam between wireless LAN, also known as Wi-Fi, hotspots throughout Asia.

The initiative, which also hopes to promote the adoption of Wi-Fi by operators, will produce a blueprint for providing seamless connectivity and roaming capabilities to be submitted to international standards bodies, including the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, the GSM Association, the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Wi-Fi Alliance, in July 2004.

The partners that have joined the project include three Singaporean operators, MobileOne Ltd., Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) and Starhub Pte. Ltd., as well as China Mobile Communications Corp. and Pacific Century Cyberworks Ltd. (PCCW) in Hong Kong.

The participation of MobileOne suggests the company has a continuing interest in Wi-Fi, despite announcing in June that it planned to drop Wi-Fi as a service offering after conducting a trial to focus on the provision of 3G (third-generation) mobile phone services.

Wi-Fi has been a major focus for Intel, which is offering wireless LAN connectivity as part of its Pentium M-based Centrino platform. By promoting the adoption of Wi-Fi and the development of technologies that can link together Wi-Fi hotspots, the company hopes to make connecting to a Wi-Fi network as easy and as common as making a cellular phone call, the statement said.

The IDA-Intel initiative is not the only project underway to link Wi-Fi hotspots in Asia.

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), which was established in March, originally planned to connect 8,600 Wi-Fi hotspots in five countries under a single service, with a single brand identity and a common technology platform. The founding members of that project are Korea Telecom Corp., China Netcom Communications Group Corp., Maxis Communications Bhd. of Malaysia, StarHub, and Australia’s Telstra Corp. Ltd.

In July, the WBA expanded its scope to include plans to connect more than 26,000 hotspots around the world by the end of this year with the addition of British Telecommunications PLC (BT) and T-Mobile International AG as members.