Captive portal for WiFi hotspots

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PortaBilling has a captive portal for WiFi hotspot services. This allows you to configure WiFi access points in various public places (e.g., cafes, gyms, hotels, etc.), enable users to easily subscribe and access WiFi using vouchers. To promote your service you can also configure PortaBilling to grant one-time free minutes (e.g., 15 minutes of free WiFi access per day).

The supplied captive portal interoperates only with Huawei BNG (Broadband Network Gateway) and is a sample model. Your in-house or outsource developers can extend it to interoperate with the WiFi routers and access points that you use. Alternatively, they can use it as a basis when building your customized captive portal.

The captive portal is located on the PortaBilling web server and consists of:

  • A front-end web application – this is the set of webpages to which users are redirected when they open a web browser. These pages contain your legal information (name, logo and the terms of use), provide signup/login options and show available prepaid plans. They also return user credentials for subsequent logins upon signup, display the session status and the remaining time available. You can customize the content, page design and layout (e.g., use your pictures and colors) as you like.

  • The back-end signup module. This communicates with PortaBilling via the API to create user accounts. It also communicates with Huawei BNG via Huawei portal protocol V2.0 to pass the user credentials and their device IP address to PortaBilling for authorization. Upon your request, other communication protocols can be added to integrate the signup module with another BNG or router you use.

Captive portal signup flow

To illustrate how the captive portal works, consider the following example:

Let’s say you provide the following WiFi access options:

  • 30 free minutes per day;

  • $10 vouchers for 1 hour; and

  • $15 vouchers for 2 hours.

John Doe wants to use the Internet, so he purchases a $10 voucher. When he connects to WiFi, his device is assigned an IP address by the DHCP server. He opens the web browser and the BNG redirects him to the captive portal to accept the terms of use.

Landing page

Then a sign up screen appears so he enters his name, email, gender and phone number. The signup module creates an account for him in PortaBilling and the portal’s webpage shows his credentials for further logins.

Sign Up pageUsage plan selection

John can choose to use free minutes or enter the voucher PIN. He chooses the free minutes first. The signup module sends John’s credentials and the device’s IP address to the BNG. The BNG authorizes the account in PortaBilling, receives the session duration time from PortaBilling in the response and activates his Internet access.

Connected session

When the free 30 minutes expire, the BNG sends the accounting information to PortaBilling and redirects John to the captive portal. John must enter his voucher PIN now to use the Internet. When he enters it, PortaBilling authorizes his account for one-hour access and the BNG resumes his session.

After 45 minutes, John closes the session. He still has 15 minutes of Internet usage available that he can use by logging in with the credentials provided.

Thus, with PortaBilling and the captive portal you can generate revenue by selling WiFi vouchers and providing WiFi connectivity in public places like cafes, hotels, libraries, airports, etc. For how to configure the captive portal, please refer to the PortaSwitch Handbook collection.

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