iPass deal paves the way for hot spots

A partnership with a payment processing firm will make it easier for a service provider to share hot spots, paving the way for future growth in the enterprise hot spot market.

An agreement announced today between a hot spot service aggregator and a payment clearinghouse could pave the way for future growth in the enterprise hot spot market.

Aggregator iPass Inc. has reached an agreement with Cibernet Corp., a mobile transaction management specialist in Bethesda, Md., to make it easier for service providers to manage and reconcile Wi-Fi roaming transactions.

Under iPass' business model, telcos and other service providers owning networks of 802.11 wireless LAN hot spots can join the iPass consortium, which gives customers access to all the iPass hot spots owned by other providers. In turn, any other iPass customer -- individuals, enterprises or even rival service providers -- can take advantage of a provider's access point.

Mike Moore, director of business development for Redwood Shores, Calif.-based iPass, said the combination of iPass' transaction clearing system with Cibernet's financial settlement capabilities will automate the monthly reimbursement process that takes place when, for instance, a Wayport Inc. customer, via iPass, accesses a Wi-Fi hot spot owned by Sprint Corp.

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Read why individuals, not businesses, will drive the hot spot market.

 Moore said before now, the monthly reconciliation process was quite complicated because each provider maintains its own unique pricing model. Even though iPass gave the service providers information on how much they owe each other, they had to endure the tedious process of settling the bills on their own, he added.

With the new system, iPass tells Cibernet who owes how much to whom, and it oversees the transfer of funds on the service providers' behalf. Moore said ideally the new partnership will make joining the iPass network a more attractive proposition to independent hot spot providers, and ultimately make them more accessible to enterprise users.

"This feeds back into the marketplace and creates more hot spot usage and awareness, and ultimately more hot spots," Moore said. "And that propels the momentum of the market."

iPass currently aggregates 11,748 Wi-Fi hot spots, owned by more than 100 providers in 150 countries worldwide.

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