T-Mobile Inks Wi-Fi Roaming Pacts

T-Mobile has struck a deal with six international wireless
operators to simplify roaming and billing for travelers
using Wi-Fi abroad, the company said Wednesday.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based company said it will work with Wireless
Broadband Alliance (WBA) companies like British Telecom,
Telecom Italia, Maxis out of Malaysia, Japan’s NTT Com, Singapore-based
StarHub, and Telstra from Australia to let its customers roam across
broader international Wi-Fi networks with one Wi-Fi account.

More than
11,500 hotspots are already in play across the
United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Italy, Czech Republic,
Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the United States.

T-Mobile said its U.S. customers will be able to use their hotspot
services at no additional charge through the remainder of 2004. Prices
for international roaming in 2005 and beyond will be determined at a
later time, the company said.

The partnership is timely, as roving bands of Wi-Fi users are growing
in numbers. According to the Travel Industry Association of America,
more than 45 million people travel for business each year. These “road
warriors” and “windshield warriors” increasingly demand broadband
wireless access along their journeys – from hotels to airports to
everywhere in between, T-Mobile said.

“Our customers, on average, make more than three international trips
per year,” Joe Sims, vice president and general manager of T-Mobile
HotSpot, said at an event today in San Francisco. “These historic roaming
arrangements allow our subscribers to stay connected internationally
using their familiar T-Mobile HotSpot accounts. Additionally, Wi-Fi users
from participating WBA carriers can now roam into our world-class
network of more than 5,000 T-Mobile HotSpot locations in the U.S.”

The pact is also good for PCTEL’s Roaming Client software, which is
the same software that powers the latest generation of T-Mobile
Hotspot’s Connection Manager software. PCTEL said this week that the
software will be used by Japan’s NTT DoCoMo to let users roam between
Wi-Fi, WCDMA, and PHS (Personal Handyphone Service) networks, all with
the same interface. The software supports multiple languages and full
802.1X secure authentication.

But T-Mobile’s band of partners is not alone in the Wi-Fi roaming
world. Wi-Fi hotspot interconnection developer Nomadix said its new
roaming program gives it the world’s largest public access footprint.
Dubbed NIS Roaming, the service aggregates more than 4,000 venues
operated by carriers, wireless ISPs and service providers.

Hotspot provider Wayport has also signed a roaming agreement with
Europe’s WeRoam. Customers of the service can gain access to the 3,800
hotspot locations operated by Wayport.

Likewise, Boingo Wireless has a new roaming partner in France.
The partnership with Paris-based METEOR Networks will put 400 new hotspot
locations in the aggregator’s footprint, including hotels, cafes and
bus stations (the usual suspects). METEOR has said it expects to have
750 hotspots by the end of 2004. Boingo claims 5,600 locations
throughout Europe.

And in the air, Connexion by Boeing, the Wi-Fi Internet service on
planes,
has another roaming partner.
Users of the Mzone service provided
by NTT DoCoMo can use their existing usernames and
passwords to access the service. Customers’ usage appears on their
NTT bills.

In T-Mobile’s case, the international partnership is an extension of
its U.S. contract with hotspot aggregator iPass.

T-Mobile said it expects more international carriers in Europe, and
Asia will join its cause in the near future, but declined to comment on
which ones it’s approached.

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