Irish firm’s global Wi-Fi venture part-funded by IBM

6 Apr 2004

An Irish-owned company responsible for rolling out hundreds of wireless hotspots across hotels and pubs in the UK has established an international exchange, part-financed by IBM, that brings together the world’s leading public Wi-Fi providers to enable web surfers to access the internet across a huge global network of hotspots at airports, cafes and hotels.

Established by ex-Ebeon executives, including Norman Crowley, Inspired Broadcast Networks in collaboration with Ericsson and Intel created ‘The Cloud’ last year. The Cloud is open to any branded service provider to offer Wi-Fi services to their customers under their own brand. BT Openzone became the first service provider on The Cloud and began offering its services last July, making the network the largest of its type in Europe. Inspired Broadcast Networks began building this network last year, leveraging its national network of broadband connected games terminals and its exclusive partnership with Leisure Link, which manages 90,000 machines in 30,000 locations across the UK.

The latest venture to come out of The Cloud, entitled RoamPoint, is part financed by IBM and aims to link together the numerous wireless work footprints to be found in hotels, airports, railway stations and cafes into one platform so that users can access an extensive array of hotspots.

Across the wireless industry there are fears that the current inability to roam between hotspots internationally could stunt the growth of Wi-Fi technology. The aim of RoamPoint is to ensure that users can go anywhere in the world and not have to worry whether the technology will work or not.

RoamPoint joins a growing number of Wi-Fi brokers that are seeking to knit together a global network of hotspots so that Wi-Fi service providers can provide their customers with wide network coverage.

However, RoamPoint claims it is different from other brokers because it only focuses on providing interconnection agreements between service providers and does not get involved in negotiating commercial roaming agreements.

Last week, local Irish Wi-Fi service provider Bitbuzz signed a similar roaming agreement with Trustive, one of Europe’s largest hotspot aggregators. The agreement will connect Irish Wi-Fi users to the Trustive network of over 2,400 hotspots worldwide. Bitbuzz currently operates over 20 Wi-Fi hotspots in the Irish market, with a planned rollout of over 200 in the next two to three years.

By John Kennedy