FatPort (Canada) and Surf and Sip (US, UK, Eastern Europe) sign cross-network roaming agreement: I spoke to the CEOs of both companies just after they signed an agreement that will allow subscription customers of either network to use their counterpart's hot spots without additional charges. The two networks combined have 600 locations currently worldwide, with hundred more due to come online in the next few months. Surf and Sip has 135 locations just in the UK.
Both networks charge about $20 per month U.S. ($35 Canadian) for unlimited use. (Surf and Sip's deal is for a one-year commitment or $30 per month for month-to-month; FatPort's is just month to month.) FatPort CEO Sean O'Mahoney said, "We don’t expect much arbitrage because the prices are so similar everywhere."
Although several Canadian cellular operators recently announced interoperability standards, O'Mahoney said, "So what and who cares? They haven’t got any locations, they haven’t got a strategy." FatPort operates the largest Canadian footprint directly and through platform partners who deploy their technology and allow network access to any FatPort subscriber. "Let’s talk about two people with actual networks, who can make a decision," O'Mahoney said, referring to himself and Rick Ehrlinspiel, Surf and Sip's CEO.
The operators will first allow FatPort customers to use Surf and Sip locations starting in September. O'Mahoney noted that many Canadian customers travel to the US and the UK and had asked for roaming options. Shortly thereafter, Surf and Sip customers will be able to roam onto FatPort's network.
The two networks also have partnerships with network aggregators, including Boingo Wireless, but the direct roaming agreement allows them to keep a much greater percentage of the fees collected, the companies' CEOs said.
Ehrlinspiel noted that Surf and Sip offers a one-time $100 for 12 month unlimited service plan during the first 30 days that a new location has service. O'Mahoney said FatPort intended to copy that offering. Ehrlinspiel said that if just 10 users sign up for that offer, it essentially covers hard costs for the first full year of operation.