RealTime IT News

GoRemote Lands T-Mobile

30,000 hotspots -- that's how many venues GoRemote says are now available on its Global Network. The jump comes from adding the 6,000+ locations run by T-Mobile in North America.

GoRemote president and CEO Tom Thimot says he went after T-Mobile hard: "No question, we chased them...I don't want to belittle our other partners, but they [T-Mobile] are the leading brand in Wi-Fi," he says.

T-Mobile offers hotspots in chains like Starbucks, Borders Books & Music, FedEx Kinko's, and others. They also offer service in airport frequent-flyer lounges run by airlines American, Delta, and United. Thimot calls those airport locations "very important" to GoRemote customers.

GoRemote's virtual Wi-Fi network -- the company doesn't operate any hotspots itself, but aggregates access to networks run by others -- is spread across 70 countries. GoRemote Mobile Office software also facilitates access to networks via wired connections and dial-up. In fact, Thimot says the number of dial-up connections equals the number of Wi-Fi venues they serve, at 30,000 (in 153 countries).

T-Mobile is the first, if not only, hotspot operator to offer secured access to users in its venues via 802.1X authentication. This is accomplished via T-Mobile Connection Manager software, designed by PCTEL. GoRemote offers security sign-in as well to corporate customers, and that will extend to use over the T-Mobile hotspots. Such users will not have their own T-Mobile login info, but will log onto corporate networks over T-Mobile lines (or any GoRemote partner hotspot) to get access back to their corporate network.

GoRemote is not the first hotspot aggregator to get access to the T-Mobile  Hotspot network. iPass users have had access since December of 2003.  (Rumors sent to Wi-Fi Planet say that another competitor, Fiberlink, also has secured roaming rights on T-Mobile's network, but the company would not comment on that when contacted.) Thicot says having 30,000 hotspots right now puts them at the top of the heap against that competition: "I don't think anyone can touch us now," he says.

T-Mobile offers its own users roaming with providers like Concourse Communications and Opti-Fi, but those partnerships are not likely to extend to GoRemote, which will have to set up such relationships on its own, if it hasn't already done so. Other GoRemote providers include SBC FreedomLink, Connexion by Boeing, and Wayport.  

Wayport has a larger network of hotspots in North American than T-Mobile because of its deployment of Wi-Fi at 6,000 McDonald's restaurants. For roaming, those locations are treated as a separate network. None of the corporate aggregators like GoRemote, iPass or Fiberlink have yet signed on to use the McDonald's Wi-Fi World program. "The enterprise corporate customer wants to go to Starbucks; they want a latte instead of a hamburger," says Thimot.

In addition to the roaming on paid networks, GoRemote allows full access back to corporate networks over free (and unsecured) Wi-Fi connections. The GoRemote software can set up virtual private network (VPN) tunnels back to the home office, as well as run a check on the client device in use to make sure it meets corporate security policy. Many such venues, such as the free hotspots at Panera Bread locations, are listed in the GoRemote directory of hotspots.

Basic hotspot service for individual customers of T-Mobile in the U.S. costs $30 per month for unlimited service with an annual contract, down to $6 per hour plus 10 cents each additional minute. Some connections to partners, particularly overseas, cost more.  GoRemote's charges vary by corporate subscriber and number of users.

Companies like AT&T and Toshiba resell GoRemote access to individual users, but for now they will not have access to the T-Mobile network -- it is being reserved for GoRemote's enterprise customers.

"T-Mobile will measure us on success and the traffic we bring," says Thimot. "If we're successful and drive revenue, they'll look to our customers [for future partnership expansion]."

As for future partners for GoRemote to add to its network footprint, Thimot says no names immediately jump out. Sounds like he needs to recover from the elation the company has over this deal. He noted, "You work so long and hard on the big one..."