Microsoft announced an enhancement to the wireless networking service in the Windows XP operating system, designed to make wi-fi hot spots even easier to deploy, manage and use. The 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.
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.
Gartner 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 recognise him or her, automatically set up the session, and bill the user's account.
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.