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« Junxion Box Puts Cellular Data at Workgroup's Disposal | Main | Wyndham Re-Ups with Wayport »

June 21, 2004

GoRemote Says Unique Totals Are Better Than Reported

GoRemote presents information about their Wi-Fi hotspot network locations that put them in better light: Two weeks ago, I reported on the inconsistencies I found between the publicly available listings of hotspot locations provided by the three major aggregators of roaming service, Boingo Wireless, iPass, and the newly renamed GoRemote (formerly GRIC, but its acronym remains the same).

Aggregators resell access to other networks that they don't operate. In exchange for this, they pay the operator a fee for every connection to their network by an aggregator customer. Boingo sells Wi-Fi service only using an unlimited monthly fee model. iPass and GRIC sell to corporations to dial-up, wired, and wireless service on a metered basis with the cost being per usage unit not per user, which can avoid costly monthly subscriptions for users who venture on the road regularly but would never pay back the cost of an individual subscription.

GoRemote came out the worst in the comparison I made, which used Boingo's public directory, iPass's iConnectHere software's directory listing, and GoRemote customer RoadPost's connection client. GoRemote doesn't provide their complete list of hotspots on their site in searchable form.

At the time I wrote the article, GoRemote didn't respond to two queries about how they came up with the numbers they promote on their site. It turns out that they were in the middle of a massive software overhaul as they release their 5.0 connection software to enterprises and reseller customers.

GoRemote wanted to set the record straight about their business's main thrust and the unique locations they offer.

RoadPost's list of Wi-Fi hotspots is incomplete. RoadPost is using the previous generation platform, GoRemote said, which has some limits in it. Further, each reseller customer of GoRemote has the option to choose which sets of dial-up, wired, and Wi-Fi locations to include based on the charges that each network offers. RoadPost uses a subset of all locations. Although GoRemote hasn't made a list of locations available to me, they have provided detailed numbers across their whole network.

My article prompted Robert Fuggetta, the director of worldwide marketing for GoRemote, to work with the global access group within the company to determine the number of unique venues versus the number of access points listed. The company reports 6,906 unique Wi-Fi venues worldwide in their aggregated network which are listed at 7,634 hotspots. iPass reports similar numbers of Wi-Fi-only locations; Boingo reports over 3,300 active locations worldwide.

In the U.S., Fuggetta said, GoRemote was able to determine that they have 1,954 unique Wi-Fi venues represented by 2,550 hotspots. I reported from the RoadPost software that they had just 843 unique locations represented by 1,361 listings. The difference has to do with RoadPost's choices.

Fuggetta and GoRemote's Wi-Fi consultant Lumin Yen, who has worked with them on the integration and aggregation of hotspots, explained that the overcount has to do with specific venues that don't offer complete coverage. Yen said that for one hotel in New York, for instance, they had represented it in their software as a single entry. But only odd-numbered floors and certain areas had service.

"We initially had it just as one hotel, and then some of our users went into these places," Yen said, and found locations where they couldn't get any signal
GoRemote went back to Wayport and asked for more detail, which produced an access point list. When hotels have full coverage, they are listed as a single location. The same is true with airports, such as San Jose International, which has 11 covered areas and several without coverage.

To confirm GoRemote's overall count, since I do not have access to their complete list, I asked for their major hotspot operator network partners, and they listed Wayport, STSN, AirPath, and NetNearU. Wayport and STSN have a mix of Wi-Fi and Ethernet in the hotels they covered, with newer properties increasingly using Wi-Fi only. Nonetheless, these four networks alone represent at least 1,500 service locations, and GoRemote has other partners, making their numbers highly credible.

Fuggetta noted in the interview last Friday that the company's focus hasn't been on Wi-Fi as a separate offering, but as part of one branch of their business, and as a result, the company hasn't spent much time trying to clarify their position. He and Yen discussed ways in which the industry could regularly report on the network sizes for more transparency, and GoRemote may post a summary of the unique and listed locations on a regular basis on their Web site.

"We want to set the standard in the industry for being very open and clear about our Wi-Fi coverage," Fuggetta said. "We consider our coverage to be really strong, and we think, competitively, if you look at the chart [which GoRemote provided to me], we stack up very nicely."

Fuggetta explained that GoRemote has three lines of business: providing connectivity for remote offices for corporations, supporting telecommuting workers of all types, and offering connectivity for mobile users. The first two legs of the business have been more significant, but GoRemote finds more of its remote office customers asking for mobile access as well, which has increased GoRemote's focus on that area.

GoRemote considers itself largely in a different business from iPass and Boingo, the former having a laser-beam attention on mobile access through enterprise integration and the latter selling fixed-rate subscriptions to Wi-Fi networks. GoRemote, by contrast, has clients like Schwan's, a frozen-food manufacturer, for which they provide remote services for 650 distribution centers around the U.S.

"We're not an access provider; we don't position ourselves that way," Fuggetta said. Fuggetta said their end-user is often an retail manager at a store, a user at home, or users at branch offices. "We're not competing in the marketplace against Boingo or even iPass," he said. GoRemote acquired Axcelerant last year to boost their remote office portfolio: Axcelerant handles managed braodband virtual private networks with existing Fortune 500 customers in their client portfolio.

GoRemote isn't trying to de-emphasize Wi-Fi, but made clear in the interview that as a small but significant factor in their business, they plan to be more transparent about the numbers in the network to remove comparisons as a factor in how they handle their mobile business.