Wi-Fi wholesaler The Cloud has introduced SIM-based authentication to its network over 3000 hotspots.
Essentially, the scheme allows mobile phone operators to provide their customers with Wi-Fi Internet access using phone SIM cards for identification rather than the usual username and password combo.
Networks can offer separate SIMs for Internet access, or give users the fiddlier option of removing the SIM from their handset and slotting it into a small USB adaptor.
As yet no UK mobile phone operator is connecting Wi-Fi access to users' SIM cards this way. Orange is currently testing the technology in France, The Cloud's Technical Director, Niall Murphy, said.
The Cloud already allows mobile users to receive a virtual access voucher by SMS. Users text The Cloud and receive a username and password in return. The cost of the voucher is covered by a series of text messages which are billed directly to the user's phone account.
It's an expensive way of gaining access, however. SMS vouchers cost £6 ($10.38) for six hours' worth of hotspot connectivity. Murphy admitted that buying the same amount of airtime by credit card from The Cloud's web site would set you back only £4.50 ($7.78).
Murphy also touted The Cloud's Open Enterprise scheme, which allows corporates to offer site visitors Wi-Fi Internet access without routing traffic through the company network.
The Cloud will set up and connect a number of virtual networks (VLANs) to a company's access points. Employees will be routed to the enterprise LAN, while visitors will be linked through to The Cloud's own network and Internet gateway.
Companies can do all this themselves, Murphy admitted, but The Cloud can and will provide support for visitors, freeing IT staff from having to deal with whatever device or system the visitor is trying to connect with. It's that need to cope with systems that are not among company's list of 'official' technologies that often persuades IT departments not to provide Net access to guests, he said.
"We route the visitors round the IT department," said Murphy.
Visitors will see the usual The Cloud login screen, and can pay for access using their own company's account, or the host enterprise can pick up the tab itself. ®