Wi-Fi roaming alliance of NTT Docomo, China Mobile and KT

Telecom Lead @ Mobile World Congress 2013: NTT Docomo, China Mobile and KT Corp are planning a joint Wi-Fi inbound roaming scheme covering Japan, China and Korea.

According to an earlier report from iPass, among the more aggressive operators for WiFi offload have been AT&T in the US, PCCW in Hong Kong, KT in South Korea and KDDI in Japan. AT&T acquired Wayport (a major WISP) and has been deploying WiFi in locations such as Times Square in New York, as well as working with Apple to automate connections via the iPhone.

KT has been reported as offloading as much as 67 percent of data to WiFi, while KDDI in Japan has announced plans to deploy as many as 100,000 WiFi access points. iPass says one of the current areas of awkwardness for the mobile industry is the price of mobile data roaming services. While the actual roaming  and billing  process works smoothly, many prices remain  egregiously high  – sometimes  orders of magnitude higher than domestic data costs.

(source: alcatel-lucent.com)

It is not unusual for fees to be $10-20 per MB or even higher for international cellular roaming – perversely, more expensive than some satellite modem connections,  or even local purchase of a new modem and prepaid data plan. WiFi roaming provides a (partial) answer to some of the issues. In markets where in-country national roaming (usually those with regional spectrum licences) is permitted, costs can also be prohibitive.

As per today’s announcement, NTT Docomo, China Mobile and KT will jointly exhibit the scheme to global operators at Mobile World Congress 2013. The scheme will be available in the second quarter of 2013.

While Docomo, China Mobile and KT already provide Wi-Fi services in their respective markets, the new arrangement will allow international mobile and/or Wi-Fi operators to roam into Wi-Fi hotspots in Japan, China and Korea through a single contract and a one-stop connection realized by hubs supported by the scheme.

Docomo, China Mobile and KT will adopt EAP-SIM authentication technology to eliminate the need for customers to enter user IDs and passwords when accessing Wi-Fi hotspots.