Hope to Roam? Join IPDR.org

The Internet Protocol Detail Record Organization (IPDR.org) is all about the single bill.

This open consortium is for everyone from hardware makers to service providers to backend billing facilitators, none of whom get money from customers in the same way. Aron Heintz, president of IPDR.org says the group addresses the fact that in the Internet Protocol space, there are a lot of different services — VoIP, streaming, wireless broadband, even content — that have no standards for billing or network level information such as who did what on what network. The IPDR.org, established in 1999, has the goal to bring together the industry, from hardware to software to service providers, to rectify that.

The group’s newest additions, made last month, are “addressing the public WLAN space,” says Heintz.

“The problem today is this: Take a friend of mine,” he says, “she owns a small business. She bought a laptop, sees it has wireless LAN, and thought she’d get access wherever she goes. But everywhere she goes, there’s a different providers. She’s not the most technical person, she just wants easy access and doesn’t want several providers. So, she doesn’t use public wireless LANs at all.”

He says that what’s happened is that there’s multiple vendors and carriers and hotspot venues that are too fragmented with no roaming and settlement capabilities between carriers. But companies are recognizing the growth of public hotpots also means the you need a mature financial infrastructure.

The solution IPDR.org proposes — universal single-billed access to all hotpsots — is being formed by its WLAN Accounting and Settlement (WLANAS) working group. They expect to have this specification finalized by the end of this year and that field testing for interoperability will begin early in 2004.

The WLANAS group includes members from companies already doing AAA (authentication, authorization, and accounting), billing, mediation, and using RADIUS server solutions. Last month they added GRIC, Intel, Nomadix, and TOGEWAnet to a membership that already includes charter members like Cisco, HP, Sprint, Convergys, and others.

Pankaj Patel, a director at Convergys who serves as the co-chair of WLANAS group, says companies like Nomadix (which makes hotspot hardware) and GRIC (which aggregates hotspot networks for its subscribers’ use) “would benefit from the growth of ubiquitous roaming backoffice support. Their roaming network soon becomes standardized, where today it’s more proprietary.”

IPDR.org — which is a virtual organization with no full-time staffers (about 80% of the work is done by members, according to Heintz) — doesn’t necessarily expect to make members out of any and all hotspot vendors. The group hopes that by getting certain key members they can spread the WLANAS standard to others. An example would be a non-member company using Nomadix products — that non-member would automatically benefit from the standardized accounting and settlement Nomadix builds in.

Of course, Heintz points out, there’s “always aspects of the business relationship that two parties would have to agree to. But right now, the technology is an impediment to that.”

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