Intel launches Wi-Fi brokering service
RoamPoint likely to put industry noses out of joint
Intel, unhappy with the fragmented nature of the wireless Internet market, has brokered the launch of a new company - RoamPoint - which aims to bring GSM-style roaming to Wi-Fi hotspots.
The typical notebook user will never see the name RoamPoint, said Andy Greenhalgh, Intel's marketing director for mobile solutions in Europe. Instead, it will be an invisible payment broker for all Wi-Fi and mobile phone providers.
"It's been a lot of work, but today's announcement with RoamPoint is a breakthrough - a brokering service, which will let the industry get away from multiple bilateral roaming agreements, to the traditional GSM centric roaming model," said Greenhalgh.
Intel's corporate vision of wireless simply didn't match what was going on in the market, he said. "One of the key issues is single sign on, single bill. We want to log in, enter ID and password and find that 'it just works' - we don't want to have to know our way around networking protocols, and creating new subscriptions every time," he told the WLAN Event keynote audience today.
The announcement is likely to put several noses badly out of joint. Companies like Gric and iPass and Broadreach, a partner of Intel, have expressed clear ambitions in this area, and iPass has been boasting of several deals with phone service providers, as has Gric.
Intel today dismissed these ambitions as ineffective: "The industry, alone, wasn't going to get there," said Greenhalgh. "We had a lot of small startups grabbing territory; it was appealing only to cognoscenti. But hotspot services can't be healthy if they are all fragmented and difficult to use."
Intel has been "moving away from the current scenario," which Greenhalgh classified as "bilateral roaming agreements between every hotspot operator, and multiple service providers." Intel simply didn't see this working. "It gets too complex; they can probably mop up only 40-50 per cent of the hotspots with that model. We need the GSM model; a roaming provider model, where each operator signs up to the roaming provider. It's Purely a wholesale model, and a modest transaction charge is taken and agreed."
That way, Intel believes, we end up in a situation which scales; "We get up to the single log in which Intel feels is what we need, and where the complexity is hidden from the end-user. That's made possible by today's launch of RoamPoint. It's fully VC funded, and has started cutting deals."
And, he added: "It's what the industry needs, and will be successful. And in an ideal world, we'd want to see two or three of these... this is a traditional intermediary; they don't aggregate minutes, they don't own hotspots, and they don't act as a service provider, and they don't target end users."
Intel quoted Allan Jakobsen, Dan Net CEO: "This initiative taken by RoamPoint is a major step forward to allow inter operator roaming, which will enable our worldwide customer base of GSM operators to take part in the expanding Wi-Fi market."
Consultant Peter Kingsland at BWCS welcomed the news. "If it works the way Intel hopes, it can only help the market," he said.
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