Google’s in-house incubator Area 120 wants to make it easier for people to stay connected inside buildings where cell service might be iffy, for instance, inside NBA stadiums. To do that, Area 120 just launched Orion WiFi, a platform that links carriers to public WiFi providers. When customers of participating carriers walk into a building or space with public WiFi, Orion will automatically and securely connect their devices to the WiFi.
Through the Orion platform, public WiFi providers will sell their capacity to carriers. In theory, better connectivity will make customers happier, which could benefit both carriers and venues alike. Plus, customers won’t have to go through an irritating sign-on process. The WiFi connection will happen seamlessly.
Orion WiFi is already working with Boingo, which has been offloading AT&T’s excess cellular traffic onto its public WiFi in places like Chicago O’Hare International airport and Los Angeles International airport since last year. Verizon (Engadget’s parent company) is using Boingo to improve indoor 5G coverage, and Google Fi started pushing its customers’ traffic on Boingo’s public WiFi last month.
Now, it appears more carriers will be able to do the same and not just with Boingo. Google Fi and Republic Wireless are two of the first participating cellular carriers, and Orion is partnering with WiFi manufacturers like Cisco Systems, CommScope and Juniper Mist.