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iPass Wi-Fi hands the boss control, staff get the bill

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IT departments tired of forking out to keep staff connected to the internet will be delighted by iPass Open Mobile Express: it leaves control with bosses while letting the workers pay for it.

California-headquartered iPass aggregates a million or so Wi-Fi hotspots around the world, allowing enterprises to pay one bill for all their staff to remain connected. Companies signed up to iPass's latest package are billed by department, or individual, based on usage, while leaving the big wigs firmly in control of connectivity and negotiated pricing.

iPass's software runs on all the popular operating systems, and automatically connects to a supported hotspot if one is available. iPass handles the authentication to the hotspot provider and, more importantly, the enterprise network.

Free hotspots remain free, but users are charged somewhere in the region of 15 cents a minute to access commercial networks. The exact rate is negotiated by the enterprise, whose IT department still needs to set up the service, but with this latest offering individual employees can download the client and provide their credit card details to pay for their connectivity, devolving the cost of connectivity to departments, and their expense accounts.

IT divisions have traditionally met the cost of cabling and connectivity, and iPass extends that into Wi-Fi provision for employees outside the office. But no matter how appealing the idea of centralised control and secure access is to an admin, few IT departments have the budget to pay for it. iPass has obviously hit this problem, and come up with the devolved billing to get around it, but one can't help wondering if staff will genuinely be willing to pay for a service managed by their company, even if they're claiming the money back afterwards. ®

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