Ireland's Eircom Group deploys Wi-Fi offload for all data plans

Ireland's largest telco, Eircom Group, is bundling Wi-Fi services with all of its data plans in what it describes as a strategic approach for optimizing network assets. 

Eircom mobile services eMobile and Meteor are now offloading data from their 3G networks to several hundred Wi-Fi networks maintained by Eircom Broadband.

"The key to a successful mobile data offloading strategy is making that move from the 3G network to the Wi-Fi network truly invisible to the user. We are already exploring more options in Aptilo's innovative mobile data offloading solution to make this move seamless for all our customers," said John Bermingham, senior product manager for data products at Eircom Group, in a statement.

Eircom's effort is being enabled by mobile data offloading products supplied by Stockholm-based Aptilo Networks, which has been supplying Eircom with a wireless hotspot management system for the past 10 years.

Aptilo is supplying Eircom with carrier-class Wi-Fi service management, authentication methods for Wi-Fi usage including SIM authentication and integration with the mobile core and OSS/BSS for policy and charging, said Torbjorn Ward, Aptilo's CEO. 

Ward told FierceBroadbandWireless that Aptilo has worked on Wi-Fi deployments with 90 operators worldwide, 30 of which are mobile carriers. He said operators are deploying Wi-Fi hotspots in scales not imagined just a few years ago. One of Aptilo's largest customers is FarEasTone in Taiwan, which now has 25,000 hotspots. At that level of deployment, "that's where we come in by providing a management system for the entire service," Ward said.

He noted policy management is a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to serving mobile customers because the OSS/BSS system needs to ensure they are approved for Wi-Fi offloading and that it fits into their individual mobile service plan's parameters.

In Eircom's case, for devices such as smartphones, users are provisioned with login credentials via a manual SMS exchange with the Aptilo Credential Server. The login page to the Wi-Fi service has a special version adapted specifically for Apple iPhones and iPads, which captures user credentials at first login.  Aptilo's platform then configures the iPhone/iPad so future logins will be automatic.  

Customers using laptop computers can use the EasyConnect software client from Birdstep Technology, which automatically obtains Wi-Fi login credentials from the Aptilo Credential Server via SMS. The EasyConnect software is pre-installed on all eircom, eMobile and Meteor 3G USB modems.

Users who are not customers of Eircom broadband, eMobile or Meteor can sign up for 10 minutes of free Wi-Fi access per day and then top-up for the rest of the day for 1 euro via credit card or SMS payment. 

Eircom has 2 million fixed and mobile customers in Ireland. Its mobile division, Meteor, is Ireland's third largest mobile operator. The eMobile value brand launched in September 2010. Eircom recently put itself up for sale as it seeks to restructure its $4.93 billion debt load and avoid a default.

For more:
- see this Aptilo release