Monday, May 31, 2010

Will SIM cards replace Eduroam, Shibboleth, etc - another reason for a 5G R&E networks

[One of the enduring challenges of the information age is authentication and authorization. A lot of research and development at universities and research networks are investigating various single sign-on and other authentication technologies. However a much simpler solution may already be available using the SIM card on the user’s cell phone or iPad. As these devices increasingly become the most common method of accessing networks and content by users (and nearly ubiquitous) using SIMs for authentication and authorization starts to make a lot of sense. The next generation of SIMs will support on board web services allowing for complex interactions such as on-line banking etc. There is no reason why such SIM web services could not be used for a universal single sign-on authentication and authorization system. For those applications that required it you could even add sophisticated multi-layer authentication technology such as rolling time synchronized ID numbers sent as text messages. Smart phones and iPads could also be programmed to communicate via Bluetooth to authenticate any nearby client PC that needs access to a distant server, etc. For many applications that need only “good enough” security the SIM card may provide the holy grail solution of never having to remember a password or log in to a site. Nobody” logs on” to their cell phone. Device sign-on (as long as it tied to a certified and verifiable account) is sufficient for most applications as to opposed to individual human authentication.

The big challenge is that access to the SIM is controlled by network operators. That is why in my opinion it is crucial that university R&E networks should operate their own virtual national 3G/4G wireless network integrated with campus WiFi facilities. Several WiFi manufacturers also plan to support SIM technology to provide seamless authentication. Many universities offer a separate Eduroam SSID, but a simpler solution would be to use SIM authentication provided by a national R&E 5G network.

I still believe that all public sector institutions should provide open access Wifi. If airports can do it (who have considerable security concerns) I cant see why universities should not be able to make the same offer. Abuse of the open network can be controlled by traffic throttling and layer 7 policies. Of course all public hotspots should be entirely solely by renewable energy using 400 HZ or power over Ethernet – hence 5G network. SIM authentication would allow users more bandwidth, use of more robust hotspots and access to databases, libraries etc. Here are some useful pointers - BSA]

Overview of SIM cards
Wi-Fi: It Just Keeps Going and Growing
By Stacey Higginbotham May. 14, 2010, 12:30pm PDT 2 Comments
3 64
As Wi-Fi approaches its 25th birthday, innovations based on the technology just keep on coming. A company called Anyfi Networks today launched a product that gives a Wi-Fi network the basic properties of a cell phone network, which means a user could move from hotspot to hotspot without losing coverage or having to authenticate on the network again. Another startup, called Compiled Networks offers technology that has the same effect.
Other innovations are detailed in a nice article over at Network World, including ones we’ve covered like the combination of Wi-Fi and wireless HD video transfer technology using spectrum in the 60GHz band and the peer-to-peer network technology known as Wi-Fi Direct. The story also lays out how Wi-Fi can be used for unified mesh networks — similar to the technology that Anyfi and Compiled are currently trying to offer through proprietary efforts.
Such mesh networks make Wi-Fi that much more competitive with cellular networks, because they extend its range — and the user experience is seamless. Plus, as Wi-Fi is embedded into more and more smartphones, the need for seamless and ubiquitous Wi-Fi grows with it. For example, my child’s pediatrician has installed Wi-Fi in her office within the last two months, precisely because it’s something that parents kept requesting while they waited.

If Wi-Fi networks can be linked using standard (in other words, cheaper and interoperable) technology, it becomes harder to run through the limited gigabytes or megabytes in your high-cost cellular data plans, which is a good thing for consumers and possibly good for carriers whose networks are overloaded. For an example of the mesh Wi-Fi future, visit New York to see the Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision shared Wi-Fi in action. When it comes to cost, it’s hard to beat Wi-Fi. Thanks to anticipated updates to the standard, when it comes to coverage and the user experience, it may be hard not to choose Wi-Fi.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d):
How AT&T Will Deal With iPad Data Traffic

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