In its first distribution deal, T-Mobile will allow iPass access to its network of nearly 4,000 U.S. hotspots (also: read Nancy Gohring's print coverage): iPass typically charges a per-minute fee for dial-up, wired, and wireless access to its aggregated partner networks. With T-Mobile, they will charge their customers $9.99 for a 24-hour period, and just like a retail day-pass purchaser, an iPass user can work at any T-Mobile location in that 24-hour period for no additional charge.
Also, unlike most venues as they appear in the iPassConnect 3 client software, which manages the account connection and policies (such as firewall and VPN enforcement), all T-Mobile HotSpot locations will be branded as such instead of by the venue's name alone.
In an interview yesterday, VP and general manager of T-Mobile HotSpot Joe Sims said that the network currently comprised 3,900 locations, and was expanding by 35 new hotspots per day heading towards their currently announced contractual commitment of 4,700 hotspots.
Ken Denman, iPass's CEO, said that the iPass network had about 1,550 U.S. Wi-Fi hotspots, and thousands more worldwide. This arrangement with T-Mobile brings iPass's total worldwide hotspot count accessible to its customers to about 10,000.
T-Mobile's Sims said that security was one of the key factors that led them to partner first with iPass as T-Mobile gets ready to roll out 802.1X authentication through its hotspot locations. The iPassConnect software has support for 802.1X integration.
This relationship continues to expand on the growing trend in the hotspot world to focus on business customers; this is the foundation of Cometa's approach, for instance. Sims said, "Our customers are enterprise users," but one might expect that the current pricing model ($6 per hour with a one-hour minimum or $10 per day) could explain that in part.
Denman said that in the future, other models were possible other than the $9.99 per day fee that iPass would charge based on what their corporate customers asked for to provide the most flexibility.
T-Mobile had announced in spring 2003 a partnership with Boingo to develop a software platform for their network which would allow use of both T-Mobile's 2.5G (GPRS) and Wi-Fi networks. Sims confirmed that that software was still in development, but that it was only for the consumer and "pro-sumer" market.
Sims said that T-Mobile would be announcing more partnerships in the coming weeks and months. "The question is not should it be done, but who was willing to make the investment necessary to provide a seamless experience," he said.
Both Denman and Sims spoke of the "tipping point" of this partnership, and I have to agree. While iPass's market is the enterprise chief information officer or head of IT, that's not a small piece of the pie. iPass's software already allows an IT department to hand off to a roaming user a single piece of software customized for their operation that requires activation of anti-virus software, firewall software, and a VPN (in any combination that the IT department requests from iPass). The same software allows a single login using the enterprise's own directory services to dial-up, wired, and Wi-Fi locations.
Adding T-Mobile to the mix of locations available will definitely make the iPass salespeople's job easier as they walk into an IT manager's office, and it's the perfect crowd that T-Mobile wants to bring into their premium venues at Starbucks, Borders, Kinko's, and airport lounges.
A corporate user with iPassConnect won't think twice about spending $10 on lunch and coffee because the $10 for their session is transparent to them -- and efficient for their employer who gets another hour or three of work from their employee.