Sometimes, connecting to WiFi isn't as simple as it should be. You either have to enter payment information or go through some kind of slow signup process. WiFi could, and should, be so much simpler. Soon, it will be. The wireless industry is working on new roaming and WiFi standards that will make connecting to any hotspot a cinch.
Hotspot 2.0 Initiative
At the beginning of this year, the wireless industry started to work on WiFi connectivity issues. The industry initiative will create an understood agreement between cellular carriers and WiFi hotspot operators. This agreement will make using WiFi seamless. So far, the Wireless Broadband Alliance has set up contracts with some of the biggest carriers including AT&T, China Mobile, T-Mobile, and many other carriers around the world.
What does all of this mean to you? Basically, switching from your carrier's network to WiFi will happen wherever you are (provided WiFi is available) without that login step. Your carrier has to have an agreement with the WiFi provider, but this is something that's largely going to happen across the board soon. How soon?
When It Will All Go Down
You will likely start experiencing better WiFi connectivity by the end of 2014. Once all the contracts have been setup and carriers are ready to go, consumers will reap the rewards. Not only is this a great move for cellphone users, but carriers will benefit too. Think of all those times you didn't get reception while inside of a building or elsewhere. Now, your carrier will be able to provide reception in almost every circumstance.
But, all things tend to have drawbacks or a downside. This plan isn't any exception to that rule. Cellphone users will not know whether they are using a carrier network or a WiFi network, since coverage will switch automatically. This could mean that carriers will charge regular roaming fees when not on a carrier network -- WiFi might not be free anymore.
Or, there's another possibility: carriers might start included WiFi data as part of a data cap plan. In other words, you could go over your data if you switch to WiFi - even if you don't know that the switch is happening. There's another possible business model at play too.
More Direct Advertising is a Possibility
Those that provide WiFi to carrier companies, as partners, will want something in return. That something might be increased advertising. For example: you might wander into a Starbucks and switch over to carrier-based WiFi. In turn, Starbucks might send advertisements to your phone directly while you are in that particular cafe location.
Clearly, there are various business models that could work here. Some of these models do not benefit the consumer, while others are targeted at consumers. Either way, new WiFi connectivity is underway, and will be available by the end of 2014. Let's just hope that consumers aren't sneakily switched over to WiFi, charged roaming fees, and unknowingly exceed data plans -- that could all add up to one giant mess.