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In the rapidly expanding world of hotspots, it's all about footprint: whatever provider has the most coverage for its customers wins (at least until we've got real roaming standards for all). So it comes as no surprise that deals to expand networks through partnerships are coming fast and furious.
Pronto is the maker of the Pronto Hotspot Networking System, a hardware/software/back-office combo that venue owners can plug into any broadband connection to instantly start serving Wi-Fi-based Internet access to customers. Under the deals, users of the GRIC TierOne Network or iPass Global Broadband Roaming service can get full, unfettered roaming access though these same hotspots -- no paying extra fees.
The hope is that even more users will try these hotspots, benefiting the providers and the venue owners.
Future versions of the Pronto Hotspot Networking System will be available from Pronto with full iPass-compliance built in through support of the iPass General Interface Specification (GIS) for roaming. Thus Pronto products will integrate with the iPass Smart Client and RADIUS interfaces. Similarly, all future Pronto hotspot systems will support the GRIC MobileOffice client software.
There is, of course, a good chance Pronto will add support for other networks in the future.
"We provide a cookie cutter approach," says Jasbir Singh, CEO of Pronto Networks. "If you've got five to ten hotspots and don't want to negotiate, we bring them to you as part of the solution. But if you want to negotiate you're free to. We're making it easier for everyone to play in the market."
Venue operators who don't use the Pronto back-office services can still support iPass or GRIC if they desire, or turn off third-party network support completely. "We try to get more and more power in the net operators. They know their policies best," says Singh.
GRIC currently has a combination of 19,000 wired and wireless access points world wide from over 300 different providers; iPass has 400 wireless plus another 100,000 hotel-based wireline broadband access points. Pronto has not announced its full install base of hotspots yet.
Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.