iPass joins the growing array of aggregators of hotspot access in providing flat-rate service: In a briefing prior to today's announcement focused on enterprise device management, iPass product manager director Piero DePaoli said the company has been offering a flat-rate price for unlimited hotspot use across their network since 2006. iPass decided the time was right to discuss the pricing with Wi-Fi Networking News in context of the changes in the industry, and their bundling of IT tools to help tech managers keep mobile workers' laptops safely up to date.
The firm charges roughly $50 per month per network user that uses an iPass location at any time during a month. Users that stay off iPass hotspots but uses the iPass Connect client during that month to connect to non-iPass locations costs about $2 to $4 per month. DePaoli said that the unlimited use fee organizations pay varies upward or downward from $50 per network user based on the minimum number of users a client contracts for, and the areas of the world that a company has the most usage in. The flat rate "encourages [companies] and their users to use the service on a regular basis and be productive," DePaoli said.
iPass joins--or, rather, quietly predates--Boingo Wireless and Trustive in offering unlimited hotspot access at a single rate across their entire aggregated networks (Boingo coverage, Trustive coverage). iPass confirmed via email today that they count 80,000 locations in their network. Boingo claims 100,000 under contract with 60,000 live and accessible (the rest coming in a matter of weeks and months), reselling unlimited service for $39/€29 per month. Trustive just opened its network of about 30,000 European locations for €33 per month.
While I am not privy to the detailed terms of the deals arranged between aggregators and venues, I've been told on many occasions that aggregators typically pay a per-session fee to a venue. At one point that ranged from 50 cents to $1; I have no idea what price it is today. I suspect that there are an increasing number of deals in which an aggregator pays a guaranteed monthly minimum to a venue, which would then behoove the aggregator to accumulate more flat-rate customers who use that venue or set of venues.
All of which means that, on average, aggregators have customers who use about 10 to 15 sessions a month. Some power users who travel to countries in which aggregators pay higher than normal fees or frequent venues with better deals may far exceed their monthly payment in what the aggregators settle to hotspot operators and hoteliers; others may use just a few sessions a month, still coming out ahead on $7 to $15 daily fees.
iPass mostly does business with larger firms (386 of Forbes's Global 2000) that buy access for a subset or all of their employees, with iPass integrating the directory services already running at the company with their software allowing single login services for company employees, and a single bill with full itemization that hits corporate accounting in electronic form. iPass does work with resellers that sell to individuals as well.
iPass, like EarthLink, is the middle of the massive shift from dial-up to Wi-Fi and broadband among their user base. In their most recent quarterly reporting, they show a massive drop in revenue from their bread-and-butter, metered roaming dial-up, from $30.6m in Q1 2006 to $20.3m in Q1 2007. That would leave most companies weeping, and shifting management. However, in the same period, they increased broadband revenue (including Wi-Fi and other services) from $5.7m to $15.4m, a staggering rise. With an increase in software and service revenue, the firm managed to slightly increase overall revenue, while keeping losses at a dull roar.
Today's announcement, by the way, was that iPass's Mobility Management package is included in the cost of those monthly service fees. DePaoli explained that the management software lets IT personnel "use our system to push out operating system patches, homegrown software, configurations, and everything else." This keeps staff in the field up to date and in sync, reducing downtime or manual upgrade operations.