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Consumer VPN service could be popular as regional paywalls go up

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Consumer VPN firm AnchorFree is touting mobile data cost saving through compression as well as Wi-Fi security as means to gain more users for its software: buts it's likely that many of its users will be more interested in getting around regional media paywalls - or even national government firewalls.

David Gorodyansky, chief exec of AnchorFree, said downloads of its Android software (released in late May) are growing at a faster rate than Hotspot Shield for iOS, which was released in November 2011. The software is not available for Windows Mobile. Hotspot Shield Mobile has already been been downloaded 3 million times, which new installs coming at a run-rate of 25K/day. Pricing is $2.99 per month or $11.99 per year for paid-for mobile products - there are also ad-supported versions.

Hotspot Shield and Expat Shield desktop collectively boast more than 15 Million unique monthly users, with 3 billion page views secured per month, according to the company.

Access allowed

The technology offers travelers, business people, expats, and locals free access internet content without regional restrictions. Services like the BBC's iPlayer are supposed to be only available to consumers in the UK but Expat Shield offers a way around that restriction. The technology also offers users a safe means to access web services, such as social networks, Skype and web mail, that might otherwise be unavailable locally.

Gorodyansky said that most web sites and services welcome the wider availability of their services in regions such as China and the Middle East where they might be blocked. Only the BBC and US streaming media service Hulu are exceptions to this general rule, he said. As more organisations offer region-restricted content, such as a move by the Daily Telegraph to restrict access to its website to UK surfers this week, the availability of services such as Hotspot Shield may become more of an issue for content providers.

The AnchorFree head honcho conceded that accessing content through the VPN may "sometimes cause a slowdown" but downplayed the issue as minor.

AnchorFree's technology screens traffic for malware, phishing and spam across all platforms using a mix of in-house developed and third-party security technology.

Gorodyansky explained that although AnchorFree doesn't store userIDs it wanted to discourage use of the technology as a means for people to download copyright-protected content without being tracked. He pointed out that there were other services expressly set up to do that, for people so inclined. Spammers are similarly unwelcome.

"AnchorFree is set up to protect travellers, students and business people who want to control their privacy," Gorodyansky told El Reg. "We don't want the technology to be used to download torrents and we discourage that." ®

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