Roaming is crucial for many service providers that are hoping to offer their customers access to the greatest number of hotspots. But while service providers know that roaming is important, they're faced with a slew of options, each with varying services, for how to make it work. We covered RoamPoint's recent launch, comparing its offering with the iPass roaming offering. Wi-Fi Networking News today spoke with the marketing director from WeRoam for a perspective on that company's mission.
WeRoam handles authentication, billing, settlement, and aggregation of hotspots for GSM operators around the globe. The company is a sister company of Comfone, the organization that provides clearing, billing, and authentication for over 200 GSM operators' roaming services. WeRoam is building on those capabilities and existing relationships to offer hotspot services to GSM operators.
WeRoam says it has aggregated 8,000 hotspots worldwide, which includes Fatport, Surf and Sip, and Concourse in North America. WeRoam's GSM operator customers can offer those hotspots to their customers, relying on WeRoam to support authentication and bill settlement. WeRoam primarily touts its SIM-card authentication method but will support password authentication, smart cards, interactive voice response methods, and other authentication methods.
End users typically have a combined UMTS, GPRS, and Wi-Fi PC card that has a SIM slot but they can use a SIM card dongle instead. When they arrive in range of a hotspot, the WeRoam client software on their PC checks that the hotspot is part of the WeRoam network. If it is, the SIM card in the PC card authenticates the user against WeRoam servers in Switzerland. Then WeRoam aggregates billing information and settlement data and acts as a broker.
The process uses the same secure networks used by GSM operators to enable their cellular voice customers to roam so it's easy for operators to sign up for the service, said Michael Gebert, director of marketing for WeRoam.
WeRoam primarily focuses on Europe, where Orange Switzerland is a customer, but has some customers in Africa and South America. The U.S. isn't a large market for WeRoam because cell phone users here aren't as comfortable using SIM cards as customers in other parts of the world. But WeRoam has talked to operators such as AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile, which could use other authentication methods instead of SIM, Gebert said.
WeRoam recently added Australia's Skynet Global, a hotspot operator, to its network.
WeRoam doesn't consider Roampoint a competitor. RoamPoint facilitates roaming for hotspot operators but doesn't handle bill settlement; neither does iPass's clearinghouse system. "RoamPoint is evaluating our service," said Gebert. He said RoamPoint could essentially resell the WeRoam authentication and settlement service. "RoamPoint is coming from a marketing-drive, loud perspective of doing business," Gebert commented. "What they want to do is partly the same business as we are already offering."