After years of focusing on Wi-Fi, mobile access aggregator iPass has finally added 3G to its portfolio thanks to deals including one with T-Mobile in the UK.
"We've been saying for a long while that Wi-Fi and 3G are complementary," said Stephen Dane, director UK and Ireland for iPass. Despite that, 3G has lagged far behind while the company has built up its Wi-Fi coverage to 76,000 hotspots.
T-Mobile still has no coverage in the rest of Europe, although it does have coverage in Japan, China and Singapore, and in the US through Sprint and Verizon. Dane would not elaborate, but it's clear the delay is due to was in negotiations with operators, who prefer to own the customer, rather than provide connections for other people to sell.
"The plan is to extend 3G as quickly as we can," he said, "but the model of reselling mobile data services is still in its infancy." He denied that iPass's 3G coverage is late, pointing out that most 3G business customers are still trying the service out, rather than rolling it out to everyone with a laptop. "We haven't seen large scale deployments of 3G cards," he said. "We've seen companies making initial forays."
iPass gained these deals by convincing T-Mobile and the other operators that its customer base was good quality, and liable to bring more lucrative business traffic onto their networks.
In the interim, iPass customers have been able to use 3G - the software can sniff a 3G card and manage the connection for the user. "You would buy the card, and we would secure it for you," said Dane. "The only difference is it's on a different bill." The big plus iPass provides for managers is gathering remote access charges onto one bill, instead of users claiming vouchers and fees back through their expenses.
iPass vice president of EMEA Doug Loewe told us iPass was prioritising Wi-Fi back in 2004 - at a time when iPass had no GPRS connectivity. Since then, mobility has become more mainstream, said Dane.
The T-Mobile network in the UK will offer speeds up to 1.8 Mbit/s using HSUPA to iPass customers, once the deal is delivered in the second quarter of this year.