One of the smaller but more interesting items that came across the transom this week was an announcement of new Wi-Fi connectivity pricing from iPass Inc.
Starting December 1, the company will offer its enterprise customers flat-rate, unlimited-use monthly pricing across its Wi-Fi roaming network. Jon Russo, vice president of marketing at iPass, describes it as an “all-you-can-eat approach” to compliment the per-minute and per-day billing it already offers.
What makes that so interesting? Its just one more sign that wireless remote access isnt as remote as it used to be.
As Ive noted before, hot spots havent been particularly attractive to enterprise users due to the many concerns about security that surround them and the overall lack of roaming agreements to simplify billing and budgeting issues for the users home office.
Flat-rate monthly pricing simplifies billing issues. Not long ago, iPass introduced a solution to satisfy enterprise security requirements. Both moves represent good, if not necessary, moves on iPass part.
They come as the service sees increasing competition from many of the providers iPass works with to aggregate access and billing services for corporate customers.
For years, iPass was one of the only services to offer secure remote access with consolidated billing. It provided a VPN wrapper through which users would connect and extend an AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) system that aggregated charges from many vendors into a single bill. When the company launched in 1996, this was a powerful advantage. It still is, though its not quite as powerful as it once was.
Over time, others have gotten wise to the needs of enterprise customers. Competitive new enterprise plans have become quite the trend among mobile operators looking to boost their withering voice revenues with Wi-Fi models aimed at addressing the data, as well as the voice, needs of mobile corporate workforces.
Sprint now offers standardized billing with secure VPN access in its Remote Access Solutions. And T-Mobile is coming on strong with an assortment of Wi-Fi services. Servicing some 5000 U.S. hot spots, the company has become the largest U.S. carrier to offer Wi-Fi remote access alongside its mobile phone plans.
Fortunately for iPass, T-Mobile has been—and continues to be—a powerful partner. iPass ability to provide security and access service through its extended network of partner providers is what gives it a unique edge as the mobile market evolves.
One wonders for how long.
: Getting hip on Route 66 “> I wondered how long until just last week when I found myself in the once-thriving (now nearly ghost) town of Williams, Ariz. In this fast-paced world of evolving roaming agreements and daily strides forward in mobile security, its easy to take technological advances for granted.
It takes only a short hop to a small town off old Route 66 in the desert to remind yourself that Wi-Fi really is not everywhere, and broadband Internet access—or, for that matter, Internet access period—is not yet ubiquitous.
In Williams, the only place in town where I could find Internet access of any kind was a we-make-copies-while-you-wait store that boasted an overhead sign extending fax and e-mail services as well. Unfortunately, the wait was a long one and not just because of dial-up speeds. The “closed” sign was hanging in the window whenever I stopped by. But as long as theres a telephone, dial-up is still alive and well, and iPass offers 800-number access and aggregates that service as well.
But such quaint scenarios may soon go the way of range riders and gunfights at high noon. Access is infiltrating such locations as Rio Rancho, N.M. And WiMax, with its promise of communitywide wireless broadband, offers the potential to bring high-speed Internet access to any town that wants it.
That will still leave a need, however, for security and roaming agreements that resolve charges across providers to a single bill for the customer.
But the trends seem to be pointing toward increasing consolidation of services in what was once a fragmented remote-access scenario. We could speculate ad infinitum about whether the trend will spawn acquisitions or well see coordinated services through partnerships. In the meantime, lets just enjoy the fact that remote access for the enterprise just keeps getting better.