Paying for Wi-Fi via Cell Phone

By Eric Griffith

February 14, 2003

Excilan's new venture uses your cellular phone account to authenticate and pay for your Wi-Fi public access. The trial underway in Canada and Europe includes hotspots from Megabeam and FatPort.

Imagine you sit down in a café hoping to partake of an hour or two of Wi-Fi access, but you don't have your credit card or any cash on hand. How are you going to pay for your time online?

Swedish company Excilan has an idea, currently in a pilot program, that may take care of that issue by letting you put charges for hotspot use on your cellular phone bill. Authentication for you to get access and be charged would also take place over the phone, instead of via a Web browser.

Sean O'Mahony, president and CEO of FatPort, the only wireless ISP (WISP) in North America currently part of the project, describes the service like this: " Where the usual [Web page] log in is for FatPort, there will also be a another link saying 'Pay by mobile phone.' You enter your country code and phone number and get a call seconds later on that phone asking you to accept charges."

Pressing the "1" will mean you accept. Moments later, the computer you enter your phone number on will bring up a message telling you you've been authenticated to use the hotspot, and the recording on the phone will also tell you to start surfing.

The call you receive to authenticate access, which will explain any charges you'll receive, will come in using your home language. This is key, as Excilan's current program includes 6 hotspot providers in different countries:

Once you've given the okay on the phone, the Excilan system sends the authentication to the corresponding hotspot provider.

Excilan will provide hotspot partners with branding signs that will indicated "Pay by Mobile Phone."

O'Mahony says "The reason I'm excited is that the mobile carriers and the wisps are working together. It's one of those things, still very early, that could help mass adoption."

The trial for the service is currently underway with four mobile phone operators, including Siminn-Iceland Telcom of Iceland and three unnamed partners in Europe. The potential audience of mobile phone users exceeds 7 million.

Excilan takes care of the revenue split between the subcriber's telco and the hotspots. The company got the project running in less than three months, after initial meetings with potential mobile telcos and WISPs in November 2002.

"Excilan does everything --all I do is put in their interface," says O'Mahony. "I've demoed it to quite a few people now and when they see it, it makes complete sense."

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