GoRemote Reaches for Free Hotspots

By Eric Griffith

February 07, 2005

UPDATED: Corporations will still pay for GoRemote's remote-access service, but the company says including listings for free Wi-Fi access locations is 'an opportunity, not a threat.'

Most hotspot aggregators providing remote access spend a copious amount of time cultivating relationships with the actual providers of hotspots, so they can make a relationship that will add new venues to the aggregator's overall footprint. It's the benchmark by which such companies measure themselves against the competition. Whoever has the most locations—the most 'reach'—wins.

GoRemote (the former GRIC) is changing that dynamic with the release of its new GoRemote Mobile Office Revolution program. Sure, they'll continue to develop relationships with major for-fee hotspot providers—SBC FreedomLink and Connexion by Boeing are major aspects of the Revolution expansion—but GoRemote will now also actively add free hotspots around the country to its directory.

"This announcement addresses the ubiquity of wireless, and the extending of our network and reach," says company CEO and president Tom Thimot. "We want GoRemote to be the simplest possible solution for people to use. If there's free Wi-Fi, or if there's cellular within sniffing distance, [our software] will automatically connect, authenticate the device, authenticate the user, and provide a complete audit trail for the enterprise to see."

The GoRemote software will set up virtual private network (VPN) tunnels back to a user's corporate network, perform full 802.1X-based authentication, and do a check on a laptop to make sure it conforms to all corporate network polices, before the user can even connect. If the laptop doesn't check out, the software can also help do remediation, such as upgrading virus software. The audit trail lets the corporation track all of this as it's happening, as well as see where and when the user is logging on.

With this announcement, the GoRemote footprint will expand to include the 2900 locations run by SBC FreedomLink, including such venues as UPS Stores and Barnes & Noble bookstores. Another new partner is the in-flight services of Connexion by Boeing, a provider that currently has service on airlines Lufthansa, SAS (Scandinavian Airlines), Japan Airlines and ANA, and has announced service on several others in Asia. GoRemote's global network stands at 48,000 wired and wireless access points in 150 countries.

As far as finding free hotspots goes, Thimot says GoRemote is using a "a number of research methods to get listings" for the service's directory. Most of them are on the Internet as a matter of public record—for example, thousands are listed at sites like JiWire and Wi-FiHotspotList.com (the latter is a sister site to Wi-Fi Planet).

One major network of free hotspots is the 575 Panera Bread locations in the United States—all will be in the updated GoRemote directory.

"Not everyone would list them," says Thimot, making a passing reference to competition like iPass . "They want to collect five dollars" for driving traffic to a fee-collecting partner, he says. While GoRemote might lose out on some shared revenue, Thimot says, "the ease of connection is what the customers pay for." In fact, GoRemote is also offering an exchange program now to entice iPass users. Customers who jump ship to GoRemote Revolution are elligible for rebates.

Still, corporate customers paying for a service like GoRemote are likely to expect a certain level of service at hotspots in the directory. GoRemote can't guarantee 100% uptime for free hotspots that they aren't even true partners with, so they're building a ratings system into the new Revolution end user software. Users will be able to assign a quick one to five star rating to hotspots, which will be tracked centrally and shared with all users. Thimot hopes "that will push people that are providing free Wi-Fi to keep decent quality standards."

Once a hotspot has been used, free or partner, the corporate mobile user can mark it as a preferred location to get signed on instantly at the next visit.

GoRemote's software will also continue to offer other types of connection beyond just Wi-Fi. Depending on the type of data-card in a laptop, the Revolution software will also connect to 2.5G and 3G networks like GPRS, GSM-based UMTS/WCDMA and CDMA. This is being offered in China through a deal with mobile provider CSL, which covers Hong Kong and has roaming in 230 countries.

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