By Carol Ellison  |  Posted 2004-06-04 Print this article Print

WIK notes that mobile network providers in Germany already own "a large pool of customers and cover all segments of the value chain including roaming and billing services." Its report foretells that the winners will be those who can master the convergence of public WLAN with UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System)/GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) mobile-phone service, by offering customers bundled mobile services that embrace hot-spot and mobile-phone service alike. The enabler for the feat, WIK predicts, will be the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module), already used in GSM phones in Europe to resolve billing as users roam from one mobile network to another.
It would certainly simplify matters if the same phenomenon could be duplicated here in the United States. But were not as far along the convergence path as our European friends.
SIMs have been put to work in Europe to solve the triple-A dilemma—authentication, authorization and accounting—that clouds the expansion and public acceptance of hot-spot service on this side of the pond. AAA is the means through which users are authenticated—using passwords, biometrics or, in the case of SIMs, digital signatures—and authorized to use a mobile network. The accounting portion resolves the way in which billing is reconciled so that customers receive a single bill for all charges across networks. The WIK report gives a good picture of what is happening in Europe. But unfortunately, AAA is still an issue on this side of the Atlantic, partly because of our slow embrace of GSM technology and its SIM-based identity mechanism. Thats where WIKs conclusions for Germany and Europe begin to depart from realities here. The report goes on to cite other key stakeholders in the hot-spot space, including resellers and venue owners. It suggests that "resellers pursuing complementary business models ... will presumably only be successful at those hot spots which will be profitable due to strong demand." But Im not ready to throw the reseller out with the dishwater. WIKs conclusions are based on an assumption of a one-to-one relationship between the reseller and the venue thats tied to hot-spot service alone. But theres really a network of relationships at play. Next page: The iPass experience.

Carol Ellison is editor of's Mobile & Wireless Topic Center. She has authored whitepapers on wireless computing (two on network security–,Securing Wi-Fi Wireless Networks with Today's Technologies, Wi-Fi Protected Access: Strong, Standards-based Interoperable Security for Today's Wi-Fi Networks, and Wi-Fi Public Access: Enabling the future with public wireless networks.

Ms. Ellison served in senior and executive editorial positions for Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media. As an executive editor at Ziff Davis Media, she launched the networking track of The IT Insider Series, a newsletter/conference/Web site offering targeted to chief information officers and corporate directors of information technology. As senior editor at CMP Media's VARBusiness, she launched the Web site, VARBusiness University, an online professional resource center for value-added resellers of information technology.

Ms. Ellison has chaired numerous industry panels and has been quoted as a networking and educational technology expert in The New York Times, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CNN Headline News, WNBC and CNN/FN, as well as local and regional Comcast and Cablevision reports. Her articles have appeared in most major hi-tech publications and numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

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