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Wi-Fi Roaming in Athens

Visitors to the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, this week can log in to a local Wi-Fi hotspot and have the session billed to their cell phone bill back home. London-based Quiconnect says it has signed up three wireless carriers in Europe and Asia to facilitate the roaming. Eventually, the company says, it will sign a U.S. carrier to the deal.

Working with OTEnet, the ISP offshoot of the Greek Telecommunications Organization, Quiconnect says its plan is unlike other Wi-Fi roaming ventures now underway in Athens.

Quiconnect is "not a face to the end user," says Andrew Schultz, head of marketing for company. Essentially, it "moves money" and handles the billing for wireless carriers. Subscribers will see the roaming charges on their normal bill from their local carrier.

"So, if a Telstra user visits Greece and uses the OTEnet service, the Telstra owner might see a charge for using the service in Greece -- but this charge is entirely set by Telstra," says Schutlz. Telstra is an Australian cellular carrier.

"The Games will of course bring visitors from all around the world, and this year, for the first time in history, many of those visitors will be connected to their world back home via wireless broadband services," said Troy Simoni, Quiconnect's CEO.

Users of any of the Wi-Fi hotspots operated by OTEnet under the "OnWireless" brand name will at first see the Quiconnect logo which they can select and enter their user name and password. That procedure will soon be streamlined, allowing subscribers to pick their home cell provider, says Schultz.

Examples of hotspot locations include such hotels as the Caravel and Apollon Palace, along with the Eleftherios Venizelos international airport and Aegli conference center. There are 12 locations where Wi-Fi users can log in to an OTEnet hotspot and be billed by their home wireless carrier.

While the Olympics is a "publicity point" for Quiconnect, the company plans to make the roaming relationships put in place with carriers around the world permanent, says Schultz.

Quiconnect isn't alone in using the Olympics as a stage to promote Wi-Fi roaming.

Boingo Wireless is also working with OTEnet to establish hotspots which Wi-Fi-enabled Olympic audiences can use. The dozen hotspots spread across Athens during the Games are open to Boingo's carrier partners as well as non-subscribers. Non-subscribers will be charged $7.50 per day.

A list of available "OnWireless" sites available to Boingo subscribers can be found at the Boingo Wireless site or OTEnet Web site.

"Whether you are in Greece on business or for the Summer Games, Wi-Fi is a perfect complement to help keep up with the office or for sharing photos of special moments with those back home," says Dave Hagan, president and COO of Boingo Wireless.

WeRoam, a Europe-centric company handling billing, authentication and aggregation for GSM-based hotspot operators, is also using the Summer Olympics to promote their roaming solution.

Similar to Quicconnect, WeRoam's partnership with Athen's OTEnet also adds hotspot usage in Greece to a subscriber's local mobile phone bill.

"This means they will no longer have to go through the process of purchasing prepaid cards," says a prepared statement from WeRoam.