Infonet: Largest Aggregator Yet?

By Eric Griffith

August 19, 2004

Working with companies like Boingo and GoRemote, the multinational Infonet says it can offer its customers access to 12,000 active hotspots worldwide.

Until the hotspot business treats roaming like the cell phone business does, whoever has the largest footprint of public access venues will still have the advantage -- the selling point for picking one provider over another -- especially for business-oriented hotspot aggregators like GoRemote and iPass.

Add to that mix a company like Infonet Services Corp , which aggregates providers, has some of its own hotspots, and also piggy-backs on top of other aggregators, most notably Boingo Wireless, TOGEWAnet's WeRoam, and GoRemote (formerly GRIC). Combine all that and the company says, conservatively, its MobileXpress service can access 12,000 hotspots.

Greg Hayes, director of mobility services at the company says they company has "local network presence and offices in more than 70 countries and remote access coverage in more than 120 countries."

The company sells the MobileXpress service only to large-sized multinationals with mobile users that travel across the globe. It's for that reason, says Hayes, that "we went after maximum geographic coverage, to have availability in places where our customers go."

MobileXpress is currently used by 1200 companies.

The use of its own local hotspot coverage is a new move for the company, and one that's based on customer requests -- it's a build out that Hays calls "opportunistic." Infonet leverages the operational capabilities of partners to build the sites, but says they're not looking to become a big network provider: "We're not looking to canvas the earth, or anything outlandish like that. Our strategy is demand-driven."

When asked how the company's claims of 12,000 hotspots measures up when overlap is considered -- a constant problem in gauging the actual size of an aggregator's footprint, as not all of them report locations or access in the same way -- he says that they've taken a conservative approach to counting their venues, trying to ensure that there's a unique street address for each venue counted. The exception, as usual, is airports, because "they're like mini-cities, and each terminal and specific gate area can be counted," says Hayes.

"If you take all the hotspots in our directory, all the feeds we get from partners, we'd be well over 15,000, hands down," Hayes says. "We've done the work to strip that down and not double-count."

Over the next year, Hayes says Infonet hopes to double the number of venues in the MobileXpress directory, something he says is necessary to get enterprise customers to buy into the product.

"We're upping the bar, saying what's been done isn't enough... we're hoping enterprises adopt this, but [to do that] they must perceive [Wi-Fi service] as ubiquitous."

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