Airpath Aims for IE-like Hotspot Model

By Ed Sutherland

August 12, 2004

The hotspot back end provider will make its provisioning software available on new D-Link equipment, giving them an instant in with new markets via low-cost equipment.

Airpath Wireless is looking to the Internet Explorer model in its pact with equipment maker D-Link Systems to target enterprise-based Wi-Fi hotspots. The hotspot management company is bundling its software with D-Link's new Airspot Gateway.

The Waltham, Mass.-based Airpath will include its Wireless Broadband Operational Support System (WiBOSS) software as a free firmware upgrade for the D-Link hardware. The solution creates "point-and-click provisioning" for small businesses looking to create a public network for guests.

By placing Airpath's management software on every D-Link powered hotspot "desktop," the company hopes to emulate the success of Microsoft's Web browser, says Jeff Manning, vice president of business development at Airpath. Manning believes such ubiquity will increase the number of hotspots enrolled in the Airpath Provider Alliance (APA). The network allows members to roam between APA-affiliated hotspots. There are currently more than 3,000 hotspots in the network.

Wednesday's announcement means "adoption rates will go up," says Manning.

The $429.99 combination includes the network management, customer provisioning and billing provided by WiBOSS, along with the firewall and user tracking of D-Link's gateway.

"Enterprise guest networking is becoming a hot topic," says Manning. Hotels are just one example of businesses looking to "opening up a portion of their network for guests."

Enterprises opening up their wireless networks to guests will climb from 30 percent this year to 60 percent in 2005," according to researchers at the META Group. They say, "The pressure to provide network connectivity to non-employees will gradually become too great to ignore, and enterprises will be forced to provide this service."

"Of the companies that we surveyed which have a WLAN in place, 69 percent have one in common areas -- areas likely to have guests," says Julie Ask, senior wireless analyst at Jupiter Research.

"There are an increasing amount of instances when people require a connection to their e-mail or server files," said Todd Myers, CEO of Airpath Wireless.

"Businesses have embraced wireless connectivity and want to utilize the technology to provide high speed wireless Internet access to clients, customers and visitors," said Steven Joe, president and CEO of D-Link.

The combination hotspot gateway and management software addresses "the concerns businesses have about creating wireless hotspots -- namely security and management," said Myers.

In April, D-Link rival Linksys announced a similar partnership with Wi-Fi hotspot aggregator Boingo Wireless. Available as a free firmware upgrade to the $229 Linksys Wireless-G VPN Broadband Router, the combination was aimed at small-to-medium businesses looking to create hotspots.

The Boingo announcement included revenue sharing for vendors. Owners of the hotspot venues get $1 each time a Boingo Roaming System subscriber uses a hotspot -- or $4 per one-time daily usage sign-ups.

Like Airpath, Boingo Wireless is hoping that teaming up with a hardware vendor gets their roaming network in front of more Wi-Fi hotspot users.

What's different between the Linksys-Boingo deal and the arrangement between Airpath and D-Link? "Point-and-click provisioning is the difference," according to Manning.

"We are able to provide another level of control and flexibility to the hotspot provider," concludes D-Link's Joe.



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