Interview with Tiago Rodrigues from Wireless Broadband Alliance

  • Tiago Rodrigues - CEO, Wireless Broadband Alliance

everything RF interviewed Tiago Rodrigues, the CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). Tiago is responsible for leading the overall strategy, together with the WBA Board, and the operational planning for the WBA. In this interview, we learn about the WBA and some upcoming projects and prospects of the Alliance and its members along with their recent advancements for an enhanced wireless ecosystem.

Q. Can you tell us about Wireless Broadband Alliance? When was the alliance founded and what is its Objective?

Tiago Rodrigues: Founded in 2003, the vision of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is to drive seamless, interoperable service experiences via Wi-Fi within the global wireless ecosystem. WBA’s mission is to enable collaboration between service providers, technology companies and organizations to achieve that vision. WBA undertakes a set of programs and activities with the participation and support of our members and the wider industry.

Q. What does the Wireless Broadband Alliance do?

Tiago Rodrigues: WBA work areas include advocacy, industry guidelines, trials and certification. Its key programs include Next Gen Wi-Fi, 5G, IoT, Testing & Interoperability, Roaming and Policy & Regulatory Affairs, with member-led Work Groups dedicated to resolving standards and technical issues to promote end-to-end services and accelerate business opportunities. WBA’s membership is comprised of major operators, identity providers and leading technology companies, including AT&T, BT, Boingo Wireless, Cisco, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, GlobalReach Technology, Intel, Reliance Jio, SK Telecom, Google, CommScope, Facebook, HPE Aruba, Nokia, Orange, Qualcomm, Rogers, Samsung, Shaw, Swisscom, Softbank, Telstra, Telus and T-Mobile US among many others.

Q. What is OpenRoaming technology? What are the benefits of joining WBA’s OpenRoaming ecosystem? 

Tiago Rodrigues: Wi-Fi Roaming is the ability to use multiple Wi-Fi networks using the same identity, similar to the way that cellular roaming works when we traveling abroad. WBA OpenRoaming™ is a roaming federation service enabling an automatic and secure Wi-Fi experience globally. It creates an open connectivity framework that can be used by all organizations in the wireless ecosystem to power new opportunities in the 5G era via Wi-Fi.

Benefits of OpenRoaming include:

  • Improving the end-user experience for automatic & secure connections on public and guest Wi-Fi networks
  • Growing the number of interconnected public, guest and enterprise Wi-Fi networks 
  • Accelerating the automatic onboarding of devices on public, guest and enterprise Wi-Fi networks
  • Developing an ecosystem of innovative services for public, guest and enterprise Wi-Fi networks
  • Developing a wide variety of business models for Wi-Fi Roaming
  • Developing a common legal framework to solve security and privacy issues, as well as MAC randomization within the public and guest Wi-Fi ecosystem.

Q. What is Next-gen Wi-Fi? Could you please elaborate on Passpoint technology and its integration with next-gen Wi-Fi?

Tiago Rodrigues: Next Gen Wi-Fi is an informal term commonly used within the WBA community that refers to a set of new features and capabilities for Wi-Fi. Some of these features are already fully standardized, while others are still being reviewed by IEEE or Wi-Fi Alliance. While it’s not easy to compile an exhaustive list of potential features, the term can be applied to including Passpoint, OpenRoaming™, Wi-Fi 6E (6 GHz), WPA3, Wi-Fi Sensing and Network Automation & Virtualization, among others.

Passpoint is a key technology for accomplishing our vision of making Wi-Fi easier to connect to and use for everyone, especially in regards to public and guest Wi-Fi deployments.

Q. How is the WBA helping to drive the benefits of Wi-Fi 6/6E for the industry?

Tiago Rodrigues: Wi-Fi 6 and 6E have been a key focus of the WBA activities for the last 3 years. Our programs and projects are based on the standardization and certification from IEEE and Wi-Fi Alliance to promote and accelerate industry-wide adoption.

Some of the key WBA work regarding these technologies include:

  • Educate operators and network providers by producing a set of best-practice guidelines;
  • Conduct field trials to confirm all of the capabilities of these technologies, and also to identify any potential gaps or issues;
  • Promote these technologies and our testing results via multiple marketing channels and events;
  • Engage with the wider wireless industry and any companies who may have an interest in Wi-Fi 6 and/or 6E;
  • Work with regulators by responding and providing our feedback to consultations, as well as working closely and providing guidance to policy makers.

Q. Can you tell us more about the convergence of 5G and Wi-Fi 6/6E? How can it be enabled through interoperability?

Tiago Rodrigues: The convergence of 5G and Wi-Fi 6/6E was proposed by a number of members - both operators and technology providers - that have a strategy for 5G and Wi-Fi. The overall approach is to disprove the idea that 5G will replace Wi-Fi, or vice-versa.

It’s become abundantly clear that we need both technologies working together in tandem. Over the last 20 years, we have been using Wi-Fi and cellular technologies on an almost-nonstop daily basis, and today a large majority of the world’s population relies on these technologies to work, study, communicate and entertain.

For WBA, the convergence between Wi-Fi 6/6E and 5G access technologies is critical for enabling a new breed of services, applications and experiences such as Industry 4.0, AR/VR, Connected Cities and Edge Computing. I recommend downloading WBA’s recent white paper on the topic to learn more.

 Q. Can you tell us about some interesting and innovative projects that have come out of the Wireless Broadband Alliance?

Tiago Rodrigues: The WBA has produced some very interesting work and results over the last 18 years, and 2020 was arguably our most important and productive year yet. Some highlights include:

  • The launch of the WBA OpenRoaming standards to implement federated Wi-Fi roaming;
  • The new technology of Wi-Fi Sensing, where our initial research was instrumental for our members to push a formal standardization program through IEEE; 
  • The specification of IMSI privacy, which defined new mechanisms to improve the security of cellular identity when using it to authenticate on Wi-Fi;
  • And our work on the convergence and coexistence of Wi-Fi and 5G.

We’ve also developed trials for technologies including Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi Mesh, and Wi-Fi/LoRaWAN, with more than 30 industry trials taking place between 2019 and 2020 across multiple verticals including Smart Cities, Industrial IoT, Wi-Fi Offload, IoT, and Rural Broadband.

You can see our full roadmap activities on WBA’s website.

Q. Who can / should join the WBA? How many members do you have? Who are some prominent members? What are the Membership Benefits?

Tiago Rodrigues: Any company or entity interested in Wi-Fi should consider a membership in WBA. We have over 120 members from across the wireless industry and an additional group of 50 cities around the world that collaborate with the Alliance on the Connected City Advisory Board (CCAB).

The major benefits of joining the WBA are:

  • Participation in WBA programs and access to all WBA resources, standards, specifications and documentation
  • Influence the development of the industry and have your say on key WBA initiatives through involvement on our working groups or on our projects
  • Complimentary participation in all WBA events including the bi-annual Wireless Global Congress and members-only Working Sessions
  • Engage with the leading players in the wireless industry, connect with potential new customers & partners and influence the future direction of the industry
  • Participation in WBA marketing activities including the Market Work Group to amplify your marketing strategy via WBA programs, projects, research, events and thought-leadership. Join our social and digital network to increase brand engagement.
  • Develop your thought-leadership and market research while learning from the combined expertise and experience of our members. Get insight into global trends, influence the development of technical specifications and frameworks, and more.

Visit the WBA Alliance membership webpage for more info.

About Tiago Rodrigues

Tiago Rodrigues is the CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). He is responsible for leading the overall strategy, together with the WBA Board, and the operational planning for the WBA. As well as overseeing the day-to-day management, Tiago takes a leadership role in understanding industry challenges and working with membership to agree the key focus areas and programs that need to be developed to ensure the wireless industry optimises market opportunities for Wi-Fi and works to resolve any business issues that impede the success of the wireless industry overall.

Before he joined the WBA, Tiago spent +15 years at the Portugal Telecom Group. In his previous role as Head of Business Innovation, he collaborated with various departments within the company to identify and develop new business opportunities. Prior to this, he managed the Public Wi-Fi sector of Portugal Telecom Group where he was responsible for service management, development, strategy and internationalization of the Wi-Fi service. He was also involved in strategic marketing, regulatory affairs, pricing, product development and roaming.

Tiago holds an M.Sc. in Economics and Management of Science and Technology, and a degree in Business Administration from the Higher Institute of Economics and Management at The Technical University of Lisbon He also has a BA. Honors Degree in Business Administration from Humberside University, UK.