Deutsche Telekom to unite 'half the world's Wi-Fi hotspots'

But when?

Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Systems has pledged to unite half the world's hotspots in a bid to grab a major share of the emerging Wi-Fi roaming market.

T-Systems is DT's IT&T infrastructure outsourcing operation. Earlier this year, it launched the T-Systems WLAN Roaming Platform (WRP) to enable wireless ISPs to provide their customers to sign on and access the Internet via third-party hotspots.

One of T-Systems' better known partners is Boeing, which has tied its airborne Wi-Fi service, Connexion, into the growing WRP network. According to T-Systems product manager Christian Wollner, the company has signed or is in talks with providers who will bring a total of 10,000 hotspots to its aggregated network.

"Our strategy is to become the leader in Wi-Fi roaming," he told Reuters . "We would be content when we come to the point where we have half of the hotspots that exist."

Trouble is, so are plenty of other organisations. Remote access providers iPass and GoRemote (formerly Gric) are both enthusiastically signing up hotspot owners to boost their aggregated networks of dial-up nodes, fixed Ethernet connections and wireless links, on the back of which they sell lucrative network access contracts with corporates.

And organisations like RoamPoint, which was formed in March, and WeRoam are trying to build similar connections between WISPs, though more as a tool for the WISPs themselves than as a network aggregator, such as the US's Boingo, which sells direct to end users. Like T-Systems, RoamPoint also sees itself as an intermdiary between its aggregated WISPs and big-name service providers, such as broadband companies and mobile phone networks.

Not that many seem to be biting. At RoamPoint's launch, four months ago, CEO Leon de Beer said the company would soon announce partnerships with three major GSM networks and sufficient WISPs to offer roaming across 5,000 hotspots. As of yet no deal with big GSM networks has been announced. We've heard similar bullish statements from other Wi-Fi companies with an eye on this level of partnership, but all anticipated announcement dates have come and gone without a peep.

Similarly, T-Systems' may take a long time to accomplish its goal of grabbing half the world's hotspots. Unlike other would-be roaming infrastructure providers, T-Systems - with a €10.6bn turnover - is well placed to partner with the big mobile phone and broadband names. A tie-in with fellow DT stablemate T-Mobile is likely. But that still leaves a very open question: just how many of those 10,000 hotspots are at the discussion stage? There's no guarantee that any will end up connected via WRP.

Even so, it needs to avoid inflating the number of hotspots it is connecting and will connect, an accusation that has been levelled at other aggregators. ®

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