Startup offers OSS for municipal WLANs

Even "enterprise-class" wireless LAN gear, by itself, isn't enough to create a metro-area WLAN service that can rival today's wired and wireless phone nets. AirPath Wireless says it has the missing link.

Beyond carrier-grade hardware, the phone nets are built on carrier-grade software -- the operations support system (OSS) that handles such essential tasks as provisioning, management, and even billing and customer service.

AirPath has introduced RoamBOSS Metro, a new version of its WiBOSS wireless OSS software. The privately held company was founded in 2001 originally as a wireless ISP serving the Fort Lauderdale beach areas. It created software to administer and provision the nets in those areas and moved to become a product company offering the WiBOSS application to the WISP market.

The new RoamBOSS is a hosted service aimed at owners and operators, including municipalities as well as service providers of WLAN-based metro nets aimed at homes and businesses. The software manages local and transient users and controls and secures access for public users, such as residents, and private users, such as city employees. The service can also set up roaming relationships that lets users of other network service providers roam onto the wireless metro net.

The network operator gains Web access to a portfolio of RoamBOSS applications as well as to the full range of usage, billing and account histories of its subscribers. Network operator administrators log in to a secure Web site to access data and applications.

Working with various WLAN hardware vendors, such as Colubris, BelAir and Cisco, AirPath has created hooks into the firmware of the vendors' hardware gateways to collect much of this data and monitor the net. The software can work across a multi-vendor municipal WLAN, which may rely on Colubris gear in one location, but BelAir mesh nodes elsewhere.

On the opposite end, RoamBOSS can forge links with credit card companies, as well as ISPs like AOL and Earthlink. One component of the software, based on AirPath's InterRoam applications, supports roaming relationships among different network providers. Those relationships would let an AOL user, for example, log in to a RoamBOSS controlled city network, use their AOL screen name, use e-mail, and be billed appropriately. RoamBOSS would handle the revenue sharing negotiated by AOL and the city network provider.

The RoamBOSS software lets a municipal wireless operator create an array of different service plans, even use different plans for different locations such as a stadium, authenticate users via a RADIUS service at the AirPath data center, handle retail billing to subscribers and wholesale billing to participating ISPs and carriers.

RoamBOSS is available now. Pricing varies considerably based on the number of users actually using the wireless net. AirPath doesn't talk about financial terms, which it says are negotiated individually based on the complexity of a given net.

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