3Com last week joined its rivals by offering Wi-Fi hotspots through the channel, signing deals with six gateway vendors.
Aptilo Networks, IP3 Networks, Nomadix, PatronSoft, Pronto Networks and SolutionInc were named as 3Com wireless strategic alliance vendors for their certified plug-and-play billing, authentication and management software and services.
These companies will form the backbone of the Wi-Fi package 3Com wants its channel to sell to the hospitality industry. Their gateway software will complement 3Com's wireless access points, Power-over-Ethernet technology and security devices to form pre-packaged public wireless LANs.
"This is not something you can pick up at Dixons," said Angelo Lamme, 3Com's wireless and security international product marketing manager.
He claimed recent maturing of technical standards and new product enhancements mean 3Com now has a complete offering for the channel in the hospitality environment.
The alliances are designed to create not only opportunities for tier-one system integrator partners but also for tier-two VARs that want to be able to offer framework hotspot packages, Lamme said.
He added that the alliances will create demand among partners that want to deploy a hotspot in a hotel, wired Ethernet in its rooms or IP telephony.
3Com will include training on the six vendors' products in its reseller programmes. It hopes to lure more partners into its Wireless Preferred Partner programme to sell the packages.
"PatronSoft has a simple product to authenticate and charge users, or at least trace them, that costs $295. This lowers the threshold of opportunity [for partners]," Lamme said.
Barry Shrier, chief executive of Liberty Europe, a subsidiary of distributor Square 1 International, which launched its own hotspot package six months ago, said: "Everybody and their mother has launched a Wi-Fi hotspot package.
"These vendors say 'take our hardware, go out and sell it' to resellers and don't realise it's not about the hardware, but about the service provision behind it."
Shrier added that the quality of reseller training, point-of-sale marketing collateral and customer support is more important to any hotspot than the products for service delivery.
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