Remote access aggregator iPass claims that its users now have access to 10,000 Wi-Fi locations in hotels, airports and coffee shops and conference centres. Competitor GoRemote , recently accused of fudging hotspot figures says that it is time to compare services on a different basis and - perhaps surprisingly - iPass agrees.

"It is a foolish pissing match, to argue over who has more WiFi hotspots," says Rob Fuggetta, GoRemote's vice president of marketing. "You could have 50,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, but if they are not secure and not reliable, they are not a productuvity tool."

"We are very proud of our physical footprint, but most of our discussions are in the area of security," agrees Doug Loewe, managing director of iPass EMEA. "Unless they are secure and we can convince the most scrupulous IT director of that, the number of Wi-Fi hotspots is irrelevant."

The providers have changed emphasis because, for both of them, Wi-Fi is actually still a very small part of the remote access offering, and most of their business is in dial-up and broadband. Home DSL is providing a boom in teleworking. "We don't want to end up over-rotating and being seen as the Wi-Fi guys," says Loewe. "I can't remember a time when an enterprise customer asked how many hotspots we have," says Fuggetta. "The usual question is how can you manage and support my large and growing work force?""

On the numbers, iPass's claim probably stands scrutiny, even though the difference between a "location" and a "hotspot" can still be blurred (multiple hotspots at an airport have to count as multiple locations, because they can be half a mile apart, for instance). "We prefer to count spots conservatively," says Loewe, who has held the iPass release until the number of hotspots is in fact 11,179 in 33 countries.

GoRemote's figures are substantially better than our original story suggested since that was based on one reseller's subset of the company's offering. However, GoRemote can point to 7,634 hotspots in 42 countries, which puts it in the same league as iPass.

The biggest difference is in the service that the two companies offer on top of access. While iPass concentrates on aggregating service providers and driving down the overall price, GoRemote's model is to provide a whole service including security and management.

"For a network of branch offices or a retail provider, we design and support these solutions from end to end, directly from Goremote," says Fuggetta. By contrast, iPass will hand that sort of job over to a partner such as the UK's Sirocom, a strategy that Loewe defends: "We have is a portfolio of partners, each uniquely positioned to provide particular services."

This approach is necessary, says Loewe because user requirements differ from industry to industry. "Our approach is one of hyper-segementing the market," he says. "For instance, if a user has a particular interest in preserving their RSA token solution, we have partners that are very good at this. It is enterprise connectivity Darwinism."

"We wish it were getting less complicated, but getting more complicated," Loewe goes on. "Not only do you not want to do it all on your own, you shouldn't try to do it on your own. iPass is the cement between the bricks - not just the bricks of different access methods, but the security and management bricks."

Despite this, iPass is set to announce enhancements to take at least some of the security load onto itself.

Want more? Read our interview with Rob Fuggetta.