What is Wi-Fi Offloading? It is the ability for your mobile operator to switch between your cellular data and nearby mobile operator owned Wi-Fi Hotspots without user interaction, the main purpose it seems, is to save you from incurring excessive data charges.
Here’s a scenario for you; You are at the Airport waiting for your flight, you decide to watch a movie on the Netflix app on your At&t phone, so you are connected to the internet via your LTE cellular data, your Wi-Fi’s been switched off (by you) a day before and you haven’t switched it on since then.
Well, according to the WiFi offloading, while you are at the airport watching your Netflix movie, At&t can search for, find and connect your phone to one of their WiFi hotspots (if available) without your knowledge or your intervention.
While, this is a pretty cool feature, as it saves you from hitting that data cap, but it does bring some cause for concern, If you haven’t figured it out yet, WiFi Offloading gives your mobile provider access to your mobile device, not just access but unrestricted access, they can turn on the WiFi on your phone and connect it to a WiFi hotspot without you even knowing it, if that doesn’t freak you out even a tinsy winsy bit then i don’t know what will.
I just had dinner with fellow network administrator friends of mine (who happen to be privacy activists) who are really concerned about this feature and though I see it as more of a convenience than a nuisance, they do raise some valid points.
I mean if mobile operators have this kind of access to our phones, just use your imagination to wonder what else they are capable of.
If you are in the US, then you must have heard how Celebrity phones were hacked remotely and private photos collected and leaked online, or in the UK and how Rupert Murdoch and his goons hacked into phones of people of interest and retrieved voice-mails. And all these were done by people who didn’t even work with any mobile operators.
So why is all this relevant? well, the upcoming Windows Phone 8 devices all have WiFi Offloading.