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Fiberlink Extends Footprint

The alliance between Fiberlink and T-Mobile marks another step in the march toward full enterprise mobility -- though it may be one that has already been superseded by other, more far-reaching wireless-access trends.

Fiberlink, which supplies software to companies seeking to provide secure, wireless, on-the-road Internet connectivity to employee laptops, says it is now providing access to the T-Mobile network of 6,700 WiFi hotspots across the United States. The T-Mobile functionality is part of version 1.3 of Fiberlink's remote access software, Extend 360. The alliance helps solve some consistent aggravations for mobile workers: where to find a convenient hotspot without having to pay for it. (T-Mobile, the WiFi link in most Starbucks locations, charges users a variety of fees, from $39.99 for unlimited monthly usage to a $9.99 "Day Pass.")

The alliance could also help boost T-Mobile's business, which is under assault from free hotspots and municipal WiFi networks.

The partnership, says Fiberlink VP of marketing Jim Somers, is all about "helping IT [departments] control mobility, as we see this greater and greater need for enterprise mobility solutions."

"We've got a new customer that has 15,000 to 20,000 remote users using their laptops," adds VP of business development Jim Szafranski. "To date they have actually disabled WiFi on those laptops because they're not comfortable with the security of it. Now, with Extend 360, for the first time start they're going to start letting their employees use public WiFi."

That makes perfect sense, but it may not be addressing the market that really needs secure, mobile, WiFi access: independent contractors, freelancers, or small-businesspeople who don't have access to a corporate Fiberlink software solution.

"What they're doing may be relevant to everyone, even individuals," says Greg Olsen, a principal in Bay Area stealth-mode software startup Versai Inc. "But their business model is primarily serving corporations with a centralized need for a corporate network, and who're able to pay for a subscription. The thing that will be wonderful is when, just as an individual, you can pay a service fee and have software on your laptop to connect anywhere seamlessly and securely."

What's more, says Alex Zaltsman, a partner at Exigent, a New Jersey IT-services provider, the T-Mobile connection is of limited use to a mobile worker seeking access to enterprise applications.

"The best they can do with WiFi is browse the Web faster," Zaltsman explains, "but unless there is a Web-based application that can be leveraged by a business customer, they are left with a consumer Web-browsing device."

Zaltsman's clients are seeking other forms of mobile connectivity, he says, such as Evolution Data Optimized (EV-DO) 3G mobile routers. "A lot of our customers who need the most connectivity are buying EV-DO cards. They give you fast access to the Internet without having to find a nearby Starbucks."

Fiberlink, Somers counters, is not limiting its clients to WiFi hotspots.

"We have integrated both CDMA, and secondly EV-DO into our software," Somers says. "I wouldn't say we're agnostic, but in a certain sense the customer can bring any form of access -- WiFi, Boeing Connect, their home broadband or whatever, and our software will at that endpoint make sure that the device is compliant and in the control of IT."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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