Taking the Airpath to Partners

By Eric Griffith

March 12, 2004

Hotspot backend provider Airpath is continuing to launch a series of marketing partnerships; its latest is mesh-networker FireTide.

Buy outs and mergers are fun -- especially if you were a big name dotcom back in the day (remember when TimeWarner had AOL in the name?)-- but non-exclusive partnerships are the way of the world in the Wi-Fi industry. This way everyone gets a buddy in the pool, or preferably more than one.

Airpath Wireless of Toledo, Ohio, is a company that by its very nature was born for such partnerships. This week the maker of hotspot and roaming managed services announced a deal with FireTide, a maker of mesh routing equipment that works with most third party access points. FireTide has offices in Silicon Valley and in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"They [Airpath] are a hotspot provider and they want to make it faster and easier for wireless ISPs to get up and running," says Barbara Cardillo, vice president of corporate marketing and a co-founder of FireTide. Mesh networks are known for fast deployment times because they don't require laying out any wired infrastructure except for power supplies.

The Airpath/FireTide deal is not technology related. In fact, the companies say they didn't have to do any special engineering to get their products to work together. It is a marketing initiative that will involve joint selling, cross training of each company's sales staffs, and sharing of sales leads.

"We're completely non-competitive and compatible," says FireTide's Georganne Benesch. "We'll target airports, hotels, shopping centers, entertainment centers." One-off or mom-and-pop type hotspots are not the customers the company wants.

FireTide is not the only hardware maker Airpath works with by any stretch. Last December the company also jumped in with a leader in hotspot hardware, Nomadix. In January Airpath announced a deal to provide Wi-Fi support to payphones and kiosks run by Marconi Interactive Systems . Eric Rodriguez, the marketing manager at Airpath, says the company also has marketing partnerships in place with ZyXel and New Edge Networks. FireTide is the only mesh company Airpath is working with currently.

FireTide itself recently announced a similar marketing partnership with Cranite Systems to improve the security on FireTide's equipment. The company has a program called HotFusion for landing value added reseller (VAR) partners, as well.

The Airpath solution, the WiBOSS management platform, does require a gateway between it and FireTide's mesh routers, notes Rodriquez, adding that it only takes one gateway and WiBOSS works with a number of them: "As long as it's RADIUS/AAA compliant, it can work."

FireTide's HotPoint hardware was in early adopter trials until last month, when the company started shipping its 1000S final product.

Both company's acknowledge partnerships as a key aspect of their business, as long as it's a mutual benefit to them and users. "We think it's important for our customers and it'll happen more as the industry moves forward," says Cardillo.

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