Pre-Paying for iPass

By Eric Griffith

March 05, 2004

A new phonecard service in the UK combines low long-distance voice rates with consumer access to iPass partner hotspots -- a network usually reserved for enterprise subscribers.

This week, two London-based companies introduced a prepaid card for long-distance calls and Internet access. The service, called simplifi, is from phone card provider IDT Europe (a division of IDT Telecom ) and WISP Connect Spot. The voice calls use discounted rates IDT can get around the world; the Internet access and Wi-Fi aspect comes from Connect Spot reselling the iPass network for use by consumers for hotspot and dialup use.

"This is one card that provides voice and data, it's prepaid and you can keep the PIN [for reuse]," says Mark Carter, business development director and co-founder of Connect Spot. It's not subscription based; Charges are by the minute and users pay for only what they use. The card is "rechargeable" so it can be used over and over again. You can also treat it as a disposable and buy a new card whenever you need access, like most phone cards.

Simplfi is launching in Europe first as a test market, but since it's available online -- users can sign up on the Web and download the software they need, including the simplifi-branded iPassConnect client -- anyone in the world can use it. The company has already seen downloads from several countries, even though the billing is in Euros. The cost is steep in North America (at around $15 per hour), but Carter says that when they do an official rollout in the United States the service will get a rate change appropriate for the market. The IDT voice rates are good in 20 countries.

Users will also be able to buy the simplifi cards at retail stores in the same locations as other IDT phone cards, where they will come packaged with a CD-ROM that includes the iPassConnect software.

This is not the first time the iPass network has been used for consumers, even though it focuses on the enterprise. The company does have many resellers who can provide access to the iPass network to any market they like. Connect Spot is one of these resellers.

"We aggregate users into a corporate account model for iPass," says Carter. "Their sales tend to be indirect in Europe, and we look after some of their accounts, so we're in a good position to pull this together with them."

While iPass confirms that this isn't the first use of its network for non-enterprise customers, it is the first time individuals can get access via a prepaid model.

Carter says the eventual endgame to this service would be to add VoIP. IDT is the owner of Net2Phone, a longtime service for placing voice calls over the Internet.



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