Originally posted on The Really Mobile Project.
The increasing number of WiFi enabled smartphones in large organisations presents an opportunity for WiFi service providers to leverage that capability with products that seek to address deficiencies with 3G data, including roaming costs, poor in-building coverage and variable download speeds. iPass is one of the companies exploiting that market opportunity with their Mobile Office enterprise product. The Mobile Office client is compatible with iPhone, BlackBerry, S60 and Windows Mobile devices as well as Windows and Mac. iPass provides access to 140,000 WiFi hotspots in 83 countries and removes the need to sign up with individual WiFi providers in each location you visit.
In my experience, coverage is good in the usual places you expect to find WiFi; hotels, coffee shops, airports, railway stations etc and shows that iPass has signed extensive roaming agreements with the key WiFi providers. I’ve used the S60 client in Europe and the service worked well. I experienced occasional glitches but that seemed to be down to issues with a local hotspot. As well as regular data access I used Truphone over iPass to save money on voice calls and this combination worked exceptionally well. Knowing how much money I was saving on roaming costs did make for a very satisfying experience.
I’ve now got the iPhone client installed although the benefits are not so apparent in the UK because the iPhone already roams with The Cloud & BT Openzone. The S60 client delivers a better mobile experience because it seamlessly runs in the background whereas the iPhone client suffers from Apple’s bar on background running. I’ll be keeping the iPhone client installed for my next trip abroad to give it a thorough ‘road test’.
Since getting an iPhone I’ve become increasingly dependent on WiFi because the combination of private WiFi at home & in the office plus the bundled public WiFi provides a much better experience when available, than the O2 network with 3G, EDGE & GPRS. The big opportunity for WiFi is to increase coverage in towns and cities plus other places that suffer from poor cellular data coverage, like trains. There’s some interesting innovation appearing in this market with service providers like Freerunner emerging and I’ll be returning to this in a future article.