iPass prides itself on providing as many connection types as possible to its corporate customers, be it dial-up or Wi-Fi or even EV-DO-based 3G services. The company’s latest addition lets it work from just about any location on any continent except Antarctica: satellite.
“It’s new and exciting for us,” says Piero De Paoli, director of product marketing. He’s talking about a partnership through which iPass subscribers will be able to use Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite service, starting later this year. “This gives speeds up to 492 Kbps for mobile use, through a small terminal the size of a magazine,” he says. The user uses software — separate from the iPassConnect client software — to position the satellite correctly for a signal. Areas of the world that don’t have coverage soon will, as Inmarsat plans to launch a new satellite covering areas around the Pacific Ocean including Alaska, Hawaii, Japan and Australia.
“We’ll offer this as another connectivity type via subscription,” says De Paoli. “This will serve a fairly niche market — for example, for folks reporting news in areas with no other connectivity. This service would be great in disasters like Hurricane Katrina, where no cell towers or Wi-Fi is available.”
The different terminals connect to a laptop via USB, Ethernet or even Wi-Fi, depending on the type used.
It’s pretty costly, says De Paoli, and final pricing isn’t set yet. The one thing he does know is that it will be priced based on traffic used, per megabyte, perhaps with pools set around groups of users — it won’t be time-based like most broadband.
Speaking of which, the company is also ready to support CDMA EV-DO Rev A, the new version of the EV-DO 3G technology being deployed now in the United States by carriers Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless. It is also available in areas of China, Japan and Singapore.
Rev A increases download speed with 3G to as high as 800 Kbps, or around five times faster than the first generation of EV-DO (called Rev 0). 3G connectivity is integrated with the iPassConnect software, which also facilitates connections at Wi-Fi hotspots. iPass has had Rev 0 EV-DO service for about a year and a half through Verizon Wireless, but will now support both carriers. (The company isn’t allowed to name them for contractual reasons, but corporations who want to buy EV-DO hardware for laptops from iPass have to figure out which to support, since certain cards are tied to certain network providers.)
“We’re giving customers the ability to source this from one company,” says De Paoli. “They don’t have to maintain a relationship with the carriers, just with iPass.” Pricing for EV-DO 3G access through iPass is over and above the Wi-Fi services, at around $60 a month for unlimited usage — which is about what the carriers charge directly to their own subscribers. iPass, however, can provide volume discounts to corporate users.