OSS Provider Seeks Compatible Hardware

By Eric Griffith

February 24, 2004

A provider of operational support systems for hotspots aims to make public access Wi-Fi installations easier and cheaper.

Pronto Networks of Pleasanton, Calif., a provider of operational support systems (OSS) for hotspots, is trying to get hardware makers to work directly with its system. And the hardware makers are responding.

The company took the wraps off a program that Doug Hilmes, vice president of business development, calls "Pronto Compatible." It's a program to make hardware such as access points (APs) and hotspot controllers used for public access Wi-Fi instantly compatible with Pronto's OSS. The goal, he says, is a "no-truck-roll installation" of hotspot hardware. He says such a move could shave between $400 to $600 off the cost of installing individual hotspots.

"The larger operators are interested, they have the heavy cost," says Hilmes, "but even smaller operators can take advantage of this. Do you want to spend time installing [APs] each individually, or be out there marketing and pulling in more users? This is about efficiency and operations."

He compares the move to how DSL now works. In the past there were expensive truck-rolls to homes where a telco employee came out to check your connection. Pronto hopes this move is the equivalent of providing "plug-and-play" hardware to carrier-class hotspot providers that doesn't require expert installation.

The Pronto Compatible interoperability will come at different levels, which the company has tagged as Gold and Silver.

The Gold Partners actually integrate firmware from Pronto directly into their products. This goes beyond simple AAA compatibility between an AP and a server to include authentication provisioning and tighter management of the overall network via the Pronto software. Only Gold-level users, after testing with Pronto's OSS, can display the Pronto Compatible logo.

So far the only company signed on at the Gold level is Gemtek Systems. The company announced this week at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, that it has built the Pronto firmware into its G-4000/G-6000 access controllers and P-560 "hotspot-in-a-box" product. Future APs are likely to carry the firmware as well, right out of the box. Gemtek Systems is headquartered in the Netherlands, and is a major hotspot player in China.

At the Silver level, which requires only that the hardware support RADIUS-based billing and authentication, partners include Proxim, Colubris, Nomadix, and ValuePoint. Hilmes could not comment on which, if any, Silver-level partners would be future Gold-level affiliates.

Pronto recently closed its Series B funding by raising $11.3 million to help it expand into Europe and Asia Pacific.



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