META Group says WiFi services aggregation attracts IT organizations; evaluates leading WiFi hotspot aggregators, ranks iPass as number one

January 28, 2004

3 Min Read

STAMFORD, Conn. -- META Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: METG) estimates that although 70% of enterprises outsource their remote dial services, less than 10% procure Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) hot-spot services. IT organizations (ITOs) are investigating use of these services as a complement to existing remote access and broadband services. A model based on the aggregation of multiple wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) is attracting the attention of enterprise customers and is a viable way of adding Wi-Fi to the existing portfolio of remote access services while limiting vendor risk.

Numerous service aggregation companies have now entered the Wi-Fi services market. According to META Group, this aggregation-services approach to offering Wi-Fi services is attractive, since it offers broad geographic coverage, bundled network access, enhanced security services, and better vendor viability. The aggregation business model is built on the idea that the individual aggregator maintains the relationship with the customer and brokers the use of many different networks from any number of national, regional, or local providers. This alleviates the need for an enterprise to maintain relationships with multiple providers and ensures broader network coverage.

"Enterprises considering sourcing of Wi-Fi services should actively investigate aggregation services because they provide some of the broadest coverage and the ability to bundle multiple remote access services," said Chris Kozup, program director with META Group's Technology Research Services. "Careful consideration must be given to service provider viability, network coverage, service-level agreements, and service offerings."

During the next two to three years, leading aggregators will have broad coverage of Class A and Class B hot spots leveraging incumbent Internet dial services to upsell Wi-Fi services. Aggregators are enhancing their offerings through value-added services, including security, client customization, and bundling across a variety of access types, with extended service-level agreements and help desk support.

Rankings for Wi-Fi Aggregators

4. Boingo is a pure Wi-Fi aggregator -- it does not offer additional network services. It has been one of the most aggressive at capturing hot-spot locations, but many fall into Class B or Class C. Its client software is advanced in its ability to proactively detect Boingo-listed hot spots, but does not include the breadth of security features (e.g., VPNs, 802.1x) offered by other enterprise-focused aggregators.

3. Fiberlink provides remote access and managed VPN services to Global 2000 enterprises. Fiberlink has partnered with Boingo for public Wi-Fi services to complement its remote access services. The coverage and class of hot spot is equivalent to the one offered by Boingo, yet Fiberlink is able to provide a bundled service to ITOs -- including Wi-Fi, Internet dial, fixed broadband, and managed VPN services. Its client software has extensive customization capabilities to meet enterprise security requirements.

2. GRIC has been one of the most aggressive aggregators to embrace the Wi-Fi hot-spot phenomenon. GRIC has perhaps the largest Class A coverage of any aggregator. AT&T has an agreement with GRIC to resell its Wi-Fi service -- a partnership that improved GRIC's viability. GRIC bundles its Wi-Fi service with existing Internet dial services and provides corporate security services (e.g., VPN, personal firewall, IDS) from a single software client.

1. iPass is the best-known aggregator within the META Group customer base. Like GRIC, iPass has developed several partnerships in North America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific. It has developed advanced client capabilities, specifically in the realm of security, where it can customize the client to the requirements of the enterprise, allowing users a broad variety of network access (e.g., Wi-Fi, fixed broadband, dial, ISDN, PHS) and enterprise-specific security policies. iPass now supports 802.1x within its client base -- significantly easing secure roaming from private to public Wi-Fi networks.

Meta Group Inc.

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