This week iPass , which provides services to enterprise end-users working remotely, announced its iPass Wi-Fi Roaming Services, a program for getting carriers and wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) to use the iPass virtual network as its own.
It enables carriers to have access to our footprint and to leverage our core competency,” says iPass vice president of marketing Jon Russo.
Sprint is the first company using the service. Earlier this month Sprint announced that its first major push into offering Wi-Fi to its customers — PCS Wi-Fi Access — uses the Wayport network. iPass, it turns out, is the clearinghouse between Sprint and Wayport (the latter is an iPass roaming partner).
“Sprint can add others [hotspots] that are part of our footprint by just flipping a switch,” says Russo. “They can take advantage of our relationships with the WISP or they can negotiate with the WISP directly.
“This will shape the industry for roaming,” he says.
With the new clearinghouse service, customers using it can get access to the entire iPass install base of hotspots. For every Wi-Fi transaction that takes place, both iPass and the network provider (like Wayport) would see a part of the revenue. The iPass service authenticates users and will let a carrier combine billing if they have iPass handle transactions over other data services (including voice).
The iPass Global Broadband Roaming (GBR) virtual network is comprised of locations installed by 17 network vendors around the world like Wayport and STSN. It has 2,500 Wi-Fi hotspots as well as 1,000 locations with Ethernet connections. Accounts are generally bought by corporations and distributed to mobile employees, who in turn use the iPassConnect software to facilitate all communications (wireless, Ethernet, ISDN, dial-up, and even the 2.5G Personal Handyphone System in Asia). Locations are in 24 countries now, with 40 more hotspots in 13 new countries yet to be integrated.
This is a large number, but the biggest actual network of hotspots out there still belongs to T-Mobile Hotspot, which has most of its venues in locations like cafés and bookstores. T-Mobile has not allowed any roaming on or off its network to date, but has announced a desire to do so. Russo says iPass now has a new board of directors member from T-Mobile USA. Cregg B. Baumbaugh, executive vice president of finance at T-Mobile, joined the iPass board in June. But Russo could not confirm that T-Mobile is a potential customer of the roaming service. He would only say that discussions are underway with many companies.