GENEVA — Microsoft Corp. today announced an enhancement to the wireless networking service in the Windows operating system, designed to make wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) hot spots even easier to deploy, manage and use without compromising security and privacy for users. Microsoft Wireless Provisioning Services (WPS) technology provides Wi-Fi network providers with a standards-based and integrated platform to simply provision and manage their Wi-Fi hot spots. WPS allows users of Windows XP to connect to Wi-Fi hot spots with a seamless sign-up process and enables a more secure wireless network access.
Wireless Provisioning Services builds upon Microsoft’s existing support for wireless technology and connectivity in the Windows platforms such as wireless auto configuration, connection wizards, and wireless security features such as Protected Extensible Authentication (PEAP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) in Windows XP. On the back end, Windows Server 2003 ships with wireless components fully integrated, simplifying deployment, configuration and management. The Internet Authentication Service (IAS), which is also called the Microsoft RADIUS server and is included in Windows Server 2003, reduces total cost of ownership by allowing administrators to deploy interoperable dial-up, virtual private network and wireless access of choice through standards and without the need for proprietary solutions.
“We are excited to further extend the existing support for wireless connectivity in the Windows platform,” said Jawad Khaki, corporate vice president of Windows Networking and Communications at Microsoft. “WPS for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 offer a more-secure standards-based platform for Wi-Fi network providers that can reduce customer acquisition and support costs, while enabling a more-secure, branded and easy-to-use experience for all mobile users of Windows XP.”
WPS Addresses Wi-Fi Hot Spot Challenges
Gartner Inc. estimates that by 2008, 167,000 Wi-Fi hot spots will be available worldwide, with 75 million users. The industry is addressing the task of making the user experience at Wi-Fi hot spots as easy and as secure as possible. Currently, once a Wi-Fi hot spot is located, the task of connecting can be confusing to users, considering that end-user experience varies with each Wi-Fi network provider. In addition, corporate users and consumers have growing concerns about the security of their data and privacy while connected to a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Wireless Provisioning Services helps address these problems by enabling seamless and more-secure connectivity for mobile Windows XP customers. WPS allows Wi-Fi network providers and enterprises to send provisioning and configuration information to a mobile client as it connects to the Internet or a corporate network, providing seamless and automatic provisioning and configuration of the client with uniform sign-up experience every time. In this way, information workers can have a consistent experience inside the enterprise and across various public network providers and Wi-Fi hot spot locations. As soon as a user logs onto a wireless network, the network will recognize him or her, automatically set up the session, and bill the user’s account.
The security of each wireless session is improved because the automatic authentication and encryption provided by WPS minimizes the chances that a user’s wireless session will be broken into by rogue access points or hackers. WPS builds upon the security investments in Windows Server 2003, which offers a full range of standards-based authentication methods from password authentication to certificate authentication using public key infrastructure.
“T-Mobile and Microsoft share the commitment to making mobile computing and connectivity easier and more secure through Microsoft Wireless Provisioning Services technology,” said Joe Sims, vice president and general manager of T-Mobile HotSpot USA. “Our joint commitment to providing 802.1x standards in wireless networks and software will enable businesses and consumers to get online quickly, securely and easily at any of our thousands of hot spots.”
By using the Wireless Provisioning Services architecture and Windows Server 2003, Wi-Fi network providers now can more easily offer and manage new, security-enhanced, personalized and branded services at multiple network locations. WPS enables transparent and seamless roaming between provider locations as well as between different providers. The wireless auto configuration service in Windows will automatically choose the correct network belonging to the Wi-Fi network providers based on the provisioning information supplied by the provider.
“Pan-European Public Wireless LAN (or Wi-Fi) hot spot services are a focused investment at Swisscom through Swisscom Eurospot internationally and Swisscom Mobile domestically,” said Jens Alder, CEO of Swisscom AG. “Our collaboration with Microsoft will allow Swisscom to be the first operator in Europe to enable easy-to-use and highly secure public Wi-Fi access services with Windows XP. Together, Swisscom and Microsoft will help mobile professionals to work efficiently and conveniently without compromising security.”
Windows Provisioning Services will be available to users of Windows XP via free download from the Windows Update site in the first quarter of 2004. Wireless Internet service providers and corporate IT departments can install the back-end Wireless Provisioning Architecture free of charge with Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 in the same period.