Most people sit in one of three places at any given moment during a typical day: work, home, and their local café or bar. There’s little to no reason that said people should have to dip into their data plan while sitting in any of those places, but they end up using the cellular network because connecting a smartphone to a WiFi network is about the most painful user experience regular people have to deal with. The GSMA, the folks who invented the GSM standard and also organize the annual Mobile World Congress trade show, have announced that they’re going to work together with the Wireless Broadband Alliance to fix this issue. Their goal is to have your mobile phone automatically connect to a hotspot without you having to do anything. The authentication element will be your SIM card, so it shouldn’t matter what device you’re using. How long will it take to turn this vision into reality? They don’t say, and that frankly bothers us.
Here’s a suggestion: Most mobile phones coming out this year, at least the expensive ones, will come with NFC. Why not make WiFi routers NFC enabled so that when a friend comes over they can just tap on your Linksys or D-Link box and then boom, they’re online? And as for cafés or bar, we’re going to be paying for things via NFC in those places, right? So why not also let the “cash” register hand over WiFi credentials that are valid for 30 or 60 or however many minutes?
Instead of building out something new that’ll require operators to get off their lazy asses, why not start somewhere much more practical and let it flourish naturally?
Anyway, what hasn’t been addressed here is battery life. If your phone is constantly hunting for a WiFi access point, isn’t it going to die in about 2 hours?