Tatara Unveils Wi-Fi Service Platform

Acton, Mass.-based Tatara Systems says it exists to help carriers and service providers make money off of wireless LAN technology — and to that end, the company has unveiled its Wi-Fi Service Delivery Platform.

According to Kevin Jackson, company co-founder and vice president of marketing, after spending a few months working — and filing a few patents to make Wi-Fi hotspots look like a GPRS node on a WAN — the company re-thought its business strategy last year.

“There’s an immediately addressable market of business people with laptops,” says Jackson. “With the right approach you can address that effectively and be profitable in a short period.”

“Carriers are afraid of 1) will Wi-Fi steal revenue and 2) how do I manage it? How do I give it to enterprise customers, how do I monitor and control it and make it work in a branded way? These are the market needs we saw that weren’t being addressed,” says Jackson.

Tatara breaks its customers down into two groups: the retailers (the service providers who want to control the customer relationships) and the wholesalers that operate the networks. The new Tatara platform separates the operation from customer ownership while maintaining control and manageability of the network.

The platform will specifically allow network operators to scale the network up or down while keeping the backend operating costs low. The wholesale operator can then offer roaming across their network, while at the same time reselling their network services to retailers that can customize it.

Everyone needs to be able to log on, use a virtual private network to connect and check the Web or e-mail, says Jackson, but “local applications like printing and DVD viewing are deployed by network operators… there’s stuff that’s venue specific vs. stuff that should be on any network. The players that recognized that and make sure customers get a broad set of services regardless of roaming will be successful.”

The Wi-Fi Service Delivery Platform consists of a few pieces, including a Partner Gateway unit for the wholesale/carrier side. It’s the unit behind the billing and settlement. There’s a Subscriber Gateway device (complete with integrated RADIUS server) that the retailer/provider installs in their central data facility. It communicates with client software called Service Manager on the end-user’s laptop or PDA, which enables real-time communication between the node and the retailer, regardless of what network they’re on, without backhauling the traffic to the subscriber gateway directly.

This communications allows for the providers to sell, say, a certain level of service like higher bandwidth and make sure that is consistently delivered to the customer.

The company has the delivery platform in trials today and expects to get commercial deployments out later this year.

Can converged networks work? Join us at the 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo, June 25-27, 2003 at the World Trade Center Boston in Boston. Tatara Systems co-founder and vice president of marketing Kevin Jackson speaks on the business models for Wi-Fi as part of a converged network offering on the panel, “Business Issues for Converged Networks.”

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