What Is Passpoint WiFi & How It Works
What Is Passpoint WiFi? How Does It Work
The Wi-Fi Alliance brought Passpoint to you. It provides a “seamless and secure connection to WiFi(r) hotspot network networks”. But Passpoint has evolved to be more. We’ll go over what Passpoint WiFi does and how it works.
Passpoint is a technology that has been in existence since 2012. However, many WiFi users are still unaware of its capabilities and use it every day. Passpoint is often called Hotspot2.0, a marketing term.
WiFi Passpoint Overview
Passpoint, at its most basic level, simplifies and streamlines access to WiFi hotspots. Passpoint authenticates users’ devices automatically. It can be viewed in the context of a web of cell phone towers. Passpoint, however, jumps your connectivity from one hotspot and another instead of handing off the signal to your device between cell towers.
Passpoint would require your device to log in each time it accesses a hotspot. Passpoint allows users to sign in once and then use their credentials while their devices move from one access point (AP). Each time a user connects, authentication takes place. Passpoint must be supported by the hotspot, i.e. router, for connectivity transfer to occur.
Passpoint, also known as IEEE 802.11u-2016
The IEEE 802.11-2007 standard was amended by the Wi-Fi Alliance for Passpoint to allow inter-connectivity with other WiFi networks. These amendments address functionality concerns such as:
Access Network Query Protocol, (ANQP) allows automatic discovery and selection of WiFi networks. It uses metadata (IP address type; EAP authentication; NAI realms etc.). To process network selections;
Traffic shaping – i.e. QoS device distribution – for quality Internet experiences
Facilitation of WiFi mesh deployment (including user-end devices as network nodes);
Facilitation of cell traffic ( LTE, 3G), offloads to WiFi networks.
Hotspot 2.0 will benefit all network stakeholders. Hotspot 2.0 provides better WiFi coverage and lowers data usage on mobile phones. MNOs ease congestion on mobile networks by downloading traffic from WiFi networks. WiFi providers also monetize their services by creating marketing strategies that are based on demographics, purchasing decisions, and location data.
We turn now to RuckusNets Senior Principal Engineer Dave Stephenson for an explanation of Passpoint 2.0
How secure is a passport?
Passpoint’s security features should be questioned, considering that the IAG has repeatedly warned WiFi users to use VPNs to protect their online security when surfing the internet via public hotspots.
Passpoint currently supports both and WPA3 for “expanded Enterprise-level Security.” We noted in an IAG article that both these security algorithms are possible to be cracked.
Hashcat excels at solving WPA2 encryption ciphers. According to a group of American and Israeli computer security specialists, Wi-Fi Alliance failed to safeguard WPA3’s SAE handshake. They also included several design flaws in the specification.
We recommend that you use a strong VPN whenever you access the Internet from a public hotspot. If you are paranoid about cybersecurity, avoid WiFi and instead use a hard-wired Ethernet link.
Although it took some time, OEMs, MNOs, and MSOs have now all widely deployed Passpoint across their devices. Passpoint is optional for OEMs. They can choose to include it in their devices or not. Passpoint is available on both SIM- and non-SIM WiFi devices.
If a device’s program supports Passpoint, the manufacturer must meet “expected functionality,” which means that it conforms to the 802.11u standard.
Passpoint is integrated into iOS’s WiFi manager. Passpoint is activated when WiFi is turned on. Passpoint can only be disabled by turning off WiFi.
Passpoint is an option in Android’s WiFi menu. Select “Advanced”/”More” from the WiFi menu. Choose either “Passpoint” or “Hotspot 2.0”. Clear the box to turn Passpoint ON.
Passpoint-supporting operating systems include
Android (since “Marshmellow,” aka 6.0)
iOS/macOS (10 or higher for both)
These devices include:
Routers sold through Ruckus, Han Networks, and Alcatel-Lucent.
There are many phone models, including the iPhone 11/Pro/Max and Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, as well as models from Fujitsu and LG, Sony, and Qualcomm.
Other categories include “Computers & Accessories”, “Gaming, Music & Media,” “Smart Home,” and “Tablets, e-readers & cameras.” As of January 15, 2020, more than 48,000 consumer products were Passpoint-certified. Nearly a quarter are routers. You can find a complete list at this.
Passpoint r2 is recommended over the earlier r1. The Alliance released r3 in May 2019 but, if the past is any indication, OEMs will take their own time implementing this new release in their devices.
MSOs and MNOs. Passpoint
Passpoint would not work without the collaboration of mobile operators (viz. MNOs) as well as implementations by MSO providers (viz. “the cable company”)
Particularly MNOs were slow to adopt Passpoint. And who could blame? They spent a lot of money to acquire spectrum for their mobile wireless traffic and initially viewed WiFi as a threat.
With the increasing use of mobile devices and the increased traffic load on their networks, they are now happy to transfer traffic to WiFi networks when possible. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint in the U.S. all use Passpoint (, but not Verizon – see below).
The coordination of network assets between different MSOs that implement Hotspot 2.0 is more important for a user’s best Passpoint WiFi experience. This “roaming partner” arrangement is what led to Passpoint’s creation.
American MSOs Comcast and AT&T all offer Passpoint-capable networks. Advertisements for ISP providers claiming they offer hundreds of thousands of public WiFi hotspots for subscribers are a result of Passpoint technology.
Verizon Passes on Passpoint
Big Red stands out among its competitors because it does not support Passpoint. Verizon subscribers don’t automatically get on to Passpoint-enabled networks when one becomes available.
Verizon sent a statement via fiercewireless.com. They were vague about their support for Passport. However, they did say that they are “evaluating the use of Hotspot 2.0/Passpoint Wi-Fi technology for future use.”
Mike Dano, the FierceWireless editor in chief, speculates that Verizon’s reluctance to use Passpoint may be due to Verizon’s “long-term desire to maintain direct control over its customer’s network experience.”
There are other motives, however, that may be less charitable. Verizon supported LTEU as an alternative to WiFi hotspots owned by carriers. This technology, originally proposed by Qualcomm, uses LTE over unlicensed frequency (i.e. the 5 GHz WiFi frequency). Verizon created the LTE U Forum in 2014 to develop specifications for consumer devices as well as base stations that use LTE-U.
Google was the first to protest the deployment of LTE -U. In 2015, Google filed a formal complaint with the FCC. The Wi-Fi Alliance ( NCTA) joined them months later. They expressed concern that LTE-U could significantly reduce the performance of other WiFi devices.
Wi-Fi Alliance announced a “co-existence test plan” for Wi-Fi and LTE-U in the following year. However, Verizon and Qualcomm refused to implement the test plan shortly thereafter. Big Red claimed that the plan was fundamentally unfair and biased.
Today, LTE-U can be used in limited areas of the U.S. by T-Mobile and Verizon using base stations made by Ericsson and Nokia. The technology was deployed in July 2019 by 37 operators from 24 countries.
Passpoint facilitates Europeans to enjoy greater WiFi coverage than Americans. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, Passpoint has been explicitly designated as “specified for WiFi4EU,” an initiative that promotes Wi-Fi connectivity in public spaces such as parks, squares, and libraries.
Not all municipalities (or equivalent local authorities) may participate. These requirements include AP compliance with IEEE 802.11ac standards, support for “at most 50 concurrent users without performance degradation” as well as compliance with Hotspot 2.0.
This government initiative would take the “air” out of the carrier-sponsored WiFi Hotspot model, as it exists now in the U.S. It is therefore not surprising that Passpoint would be preferred by “engulfing and devouring” MNOs such as Verizon.