iPass is best known for its corporate connectivity software and remote office hardware, but today enters the individual traveler business: Boingo Wireless can't exist in a vacuum. The service they're offering to individuals and through private-label rebranding is obviously cash-rich enough to attract the interest of iPass, a long-time provider of business connectivity that currently has 3,500 companies as customers, including 417 Fortune 2000 firms.
Their new service, iPassConnect Mobility Service, is an attempt to appeal to regular business travelers and individuals. With plans that start at $30 per month, the offerings are comparable in many ways to Boingo, but have a couple of interesting twists that may appeal to a different set of travelers. Notably, all plans include dial-up service, and two of four plans include unlimited 3G (US only, over EVDO).
No one offers a combination of service that's comparable in scope or price to iPass's new offering. While Boingo Wireless is cheaper ($22 per month for North America, $39 for global) with a similar Wi-Fi footprint, travelers that need 3G for its ubiquity and dial-up for its use as a backstop have no better choice than iPass.
iPass currently claims a network of 95,000 "active" Wi-Fi locations, which is a subtle dig at Boingo, which often lists their total of signed locations, which expands in count before all new locations are integrated into the footprint. iPass uniquely includes current Starbucks locations run by T-Mobile; Boingo and other aggregators will start to include Starbucks as AT&T takes over the network.
The four plans iPass will offer are paired as two North American plans, and two "global" plans. Their North American Wi-Fi offering at $30 per month includes their entire US and Canada Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and dial-up footprint. Piero DePaoli, iPass's director of global product marketing, said that dial-up remains useful for travelers in more remote areas where Wi-Fi isn't an option. The service currently requires Windows XP, 2000, or Vista.
A global Wi-Fi plan that rolls up all 95,000 Wi-Fi locations and worldwide dial-up service will cost $45 per month. For "that business traveler that definitely leaves the country on a semi regular basis, this is going to be a service that is going to be very attractive," said DePaoli.
Adding cell service to each plan takes the service up to a total of $70 per month for North American Wi-Fi plus US 3G, and $85 per month for global Wi-Fi plus US 3G. At a $40-per-month incremental cost, this is a much better 3G deal than any of the cell operators.
iPass requires the purchase of a $125 PC Card EVDO modem (includes shipping and handling), and a 1-year commitment with a $100 early cancellation penalty. The company will consider adding other form factors, like ExpressCard, as demand warrants.
For enterprise users, iPass aggregates dial-up, Ethernet (mostly US hotel), Wi-Fi hotspot, and 3G service into a single login that's integrated with corporate networks to preserve one user, one password, end-point security (VPN, anti-virus, firewall), consistent billing, and cross-corporate averaging of services.
For now, businesses with multiple employees that are below the threshold of needing iPass's full-bore plan (which is available through value-added resellers, too) will need to sign up for individual accounts under this new individual service.
This new offering is part of what seems to be a trend in both resale and aggreation of hotspots. Starbucks chose AT&T as its new Wi-Fi operator in part for the ways in which AT&T would promote usage, including offering free service to a large swath of existing AT&T customers. Likewise, iPass's entry shows that there's a market for flat-rate services for predictable expectations that spans beyond plain Wi-Fi. 3G never looked this cheap before.