iPass: Roam Where You Want

By Eric Griffith

June 25, 2002

The wireless ISP hopes the free release of its generic interface specification will lead the way to a common protocol for anyone moving from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another, whether public or in the enterprise.

Redwood Shores, CA-based iPass hopes that this week's free release of its "generic interface specification" (GIS) to the general public will help push it into becoming a de facto standard for roaming between wireless LANs.

The number of public hotspots currently open in the use is estimated at 4,100 by In-Stat/MDR (growing to 10 times that by 2006), and most use completely different hardware and software.

GIS would provide access to a single Wi-Fi enabled device using a "smart client" over various unrelated networks using access gateways, whether from wireless ISPs, small venue hotspots, or on the office or home WLAN. Currently people who use an account from a WISP like iPass or Boingo are limited to access only on affiliated networks.

iPass has aggregated hotspots into its Global Broadband Roaming service around the world including major airports like Dallas/Ft. Worth, Minneapolis and Seattle. The company today announced deals to expand into five European countries and one Asian country via partnerships with various regional providers. An iPass end user must use the iPassConnect access client software to log into the network.

Similar efforts are underway to create a roaming standard with the WISP association called Pass-One, which held its first formal meeting last week in Boston. Pass-One is made up of members and participants in the WISP and WLAN product business. The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), known for interoperability testing for Wi-Fi certification of 802.11b-based products, also has a roaming subcommittee looking into an industry standard.

Companies that have signed on behind using GIS as a roaming standard include WISP HereUare.

"This Generic Interface Specification is an important development for Wi-Fi network providers like hereUare," says Jim Underwood, Senior Director of Engineering and Chief Architect at HereUare. "GIS enables quick adoption by both Wi-Fi providers and access gateway vendors making it easy to support companies who wish to offer roaming services across hereUare's Wi-Fi networks.

A paper about the Generic Interface Specification is available free at the iPass Web site.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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