The biggest single Wi-Fi footprint ever seen? It probably is – at least in the West. Devicescape and iPass – two Wi-Fi service providers with complementary approaches to aggregating hostpots – have teamed up and the result is 50 million hotspots across the world. Devicescape and iPass will each contribute 20 million hotspots and the final 10 million will come from a not-yet-disclosed third partner.
iPass’ & Devicescape’s approaches to aggregating hotspots are quite different – but also complimentary: iPass has strung together a big global network through partnerships with numerous local and international hotspot service providers, tying them all together into their managed service fabric. Devicescape has crowd-sourced a network of amenity Wi-Fi hotspots (especially in the US, UK, & select cities in Europe) into a so-called ‘curated virtual network’ (CVN). The CVN monitors & controls Wi-Fi quality, and the users connect to CVN hotspots seamlessly.
So what will this enormous network be used for? Well – here are a couple of fairly well-educated guesses:
There is speculation that Microsoft may be one of the first customers for this network service. Microsoft is working on releasing ‘Microsoft Wi-Fi’, which as a paid and probably will also be a bundled service offering Wi-Fi access to MS users. Depending on the success – or not – of this service, it’s quite possible that other content providers out there could choose to go the same route by bundling content/services with ‘free’ (or rather included) Wi-Fi access. That could be anyone from Google to Amazon to Netflix.
Will mobile operators be attracted to this option for ‘offload’ (convergence)? Devicescape has for a long time courted MNOs with their CVN offering without landing Tier-1 customers. The partnership with iPass may better the chances of the two entering into the mainstream MNO market with offload because of the huge size of the footprint.