RealTime IT News

D-Link Incorporates Hotspot Service

$500 —plus some access points and a broadband connection— can instantly turn your venue into a moneymaking hotspot.

That's the message from D-Link Systems and Pronto Networks in their teaming up to put Pronto's OSS provisioning behind D-Link's DSA-3100 Airspot Gateway.

Jasbir Singh, president and CEO of Pronto, says his company's primary business targets carriers and operators, companies with a large number of hotspots. "But we always run into people with one or two properties, multi-dwelling units, hotels, places like that. We didn't target that, they weren't our primary segment."

Enter D-Link. The company's Airspot gateways for public and private hotspots handle things like bandwidth control and security for hotspots, but didn't have a back-end billing provision—originally, they were only for venues that wanted to handle that themselves (perhaps using the optional ticket printer).

The Pronto service lets the venue owner pick from multiple pricing models: $2.95/hour, $5.95/day, $18.95/month, or their own price—they can even offer access for free. There's no revenue sharing—the money goes to the venue, minus the monthly processing charges. Pronto will also offer tech support for hotspot end users. D-Link doesn't get any money past the initial hardware purchase.

Pronto's managed service recognizes the Airspot based on the unit's MAC address, and offers a rudimentary log-in Web page that has limited customizability. Anyone looking for more advanced branding can work with Pronto directly to get that for an extra fee.

Current Airspot 3100 owners will be able to download new firmware to get the Pronto service if they want it. D-Link is in the process of getting the current products in the channel shipping with the new firmware.

D-Link's arch-rival, Cisco-controlled Linksys, has had a somewhat similar deal for a few months, offering hotspot service through its Wireless-G Broadband Router through the Boingo Wireless service. The difference with D-Link is that it is currently geared toward one venue at a time. Right now, Pronto won't be able to carry accounts from location to location, even if the venues all have the same owner. The username and password a customer gets will be specific to the single location.

Pronto says this probably won't be much of an issue—their research shows that the number of people who sign up at a hotspot venue and then carry that account to another location is less than five percent. The Airspot owners will also get more flexibility in pricing, whereas the Linksys hardware can only offer the Boingo set pricing and end up doing a revenue share.

Not having any roaming from venue to venue could change, however, says D-Link spokesperson Darek Connole. "If the channel wants it, we can change it. With a rollout like this, we're going on the side of caution."

Venue owners will get a full marketing kit from Pronto for signing up, including table tents, window stickers, etc., to help promote the network in the location. Locations will also get an automatic listing with the Jiwire.com online hotspot directory, which is licensed by large companies like CNET and Intel.

Wi-Fi Planet Conference Don't know if this solution is right for you? Ask Pronto yourself.

Join us at the next Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo, November 30 to December 2, 2004 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. They're one of many exhibitors showing their products and services today and tomorrow.