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Global access aggregator and end-point security provider iPass punts: Thames Online, which operates Wi-Fi along a 10-mile stretch of that well-known river in London, will allow iPass customers to roam onto their network. The network reaches 250,000 residents, and sees 2,000 daily users who commute along the river or work at locations nearby. iPass resells access from over 50,000 hotspots worldwide to corporations through a single login and unified, electronic billing.
Trustive adds 1,400 hotspots: Trustive resells access to its aggregated network of hotspot providers. They just added AWA in Spain (1,200 locations), Wiera in Hungary (160), M3-Connect in Germany (75 large venues), and Mobitel in Slovenia (55 varied locations).
Trustive, a hotspot aggregator, signed a deal with Airpath that adds at least 2,600 hotspots to its network: Trustive now says its network includes 12,000 hotspots globally. The agreement does two things for Trustive. Trustive is now part of the Airpath Provider Alliance, which gives Trustive access to the 2,600 hotspots. Trustive is also using Airpath’s hosted roaming and clearinghouse platform, which means that Trustive can easily form additional deals with other users of that platform. Airpath’s setup sounds a lot like a service that iPass offers, where it provides some back office functions that enable roaming and makes it easy for operators that use the service to roam with each other.
A while back I was predicting some consolidation among aggregators as well as among roaming platform suppliers. But instead it seems like more and more of each are popping up. I would think that the market would only be able to carry just a few aggregators, otherwise the traffic is spread too thin. Ultimately, if all these aggregators have deals with all the same hotspot providers, it’s not clear what will distinguish them from each other, in the eyes of the end user. A few scenarios could play out here. The aggregators could basically be in a race to sign up every last operator, as each one tries to be able to boast having the most hotspots available. At the same time they could try to establish a brand that will attract end users—Trustive looks like it’s after a sort of “hip” and “be free” kind of image. Or the aggregators could target certain niche markets (for instance iPass specifically targets enterprises).
Bozii, a hotspot aggregator, says it now offers access to 3,500 hotspots in the UK: Networks that are part of the Bozii service include BT Openzone, Surf and Sip, and Net-Near-U, among others. Customers, who have several pricing options including £34.99 per month for unlimited access, can send an SMS to receive a message back about the nearest hotspot.
Bozii’s 3,500 hotspots compares with Boingo’s 4,200 locations in the UK. Boingo charges $21.95 for unlimited access, but many Boingo locations in the UK also charge $0.25 per minute in addition to the monthly fee.
It’s clear that the market is still trying to figure out the best way to approach customers. There are currently a wide variety of approaches, ranging from independent service providers, aggregators and something in between, i.e., The Cloud. The goal seems to be offering customers the most available hotspots as possible. While there are a few standouts, unfortunately, it’s still not possible to sign up for a single, reasonably priced subscription and be relatively assured that you’ll get access to every hotspot.