Cisco Targets the Mobile Professional

Betting that services for the mobile business user will be the "killer app" for pervasive Internet connectivity, Cisco Systems on Monday debuted an initiative to provide high-speed network access from public locations and announced a broadband service in partnership with remote access provider iPass.

The Cisco Internet Mobile Office program, unveiled at the Comdex show here, aims to provide mobile workers with secure, high-speed access to corporate networks from public facilities such as airports, convention centers, and hotels.

"When we are at our workplace we become spoiled with the high-speed and high-quality connectivity. Enterprises are building applications that assume high-speed access, but when their workers are on the road they are connecting with a long, thin pipe. So the applications don't work and the workers are less productive," said Charlie Giancarlo, senior vice president of Cisco's commercial line of business. "There is significant demand for connectivity for mobile workers."

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant is combining its own wired and wireless products with gear and services from a number of service provider and technology partners. Central to the offerings is Cisco's VPN technology, which will be used for establishing secure remote access connections between mobile professionals and their enterprise networks. Cisco has deployed infrastructure for more than 300 locations, company officials said.

Technology alliances with San Diego-based CAIS Software and Redwood Shores, Calif.-based iPass are two critical elements of the mobile broadband solution, offering subscriber gateway and roaming technologies, respectively, Cisco said.

Other companies powering the initiative include Plano, Texas-based Electronic Data Systems (EDS), which will provide systems integration services for the Internet Mobile Office. EDS will deliver the Cisco Internet Mobile Office through its consulting organization, Cisco officials said.

Concourse Communications Group, based in Springfield, Mass., is working with service providers to deploy Cisco networking products in public spots. Joint Cisco/Concourse connectivity solutions are currently being set up in the JFK International and LaGuardia Airports in New York and Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Additionally, Cisco has formed strategic relationships with mobile access service providers CAIS Internet, Global Digital Media, MobileStar, and Wayport.

In a related announcement, Cisco and iPass announced the Global Broadband Roaming Service, which provides speedy access to corporate networks through iPassConnect and Cisco VPN client software. The service, set to be available early next year, will provide access to users roaming across different broadband networks, while allowing companies to source their multinetwork remote access from a single, global service provider, according to Cisco officials.

Global Broadband Roaming is designed to give service providers the broadband infrastructure they need for providing businesses high-speed, secure access to their corporate networks, Cisco officials said. Authentication integration, VPN interoperability, usage tracking and reporting, and billing settlement will be specific areas of focus.

The service will integrate the Cisco secure VPN client with iPass to establish a secure virtual private network tunnel from a public location to a corporate LAN. A mobile worker will just log in once for a secure end-to-end connection, Cisco officials said.

According to one analyst, the combination of Cisco and iPass technologies will let both companies take a big step forward in emerging broadband markets.

"It is a very smart move for Cisco," said Matthew Kovar, analyst at the Yankee Group, in Boston. "This allows Cisco to establish a strong beachhead in those emerging broadband markets, whether it be airports, convention centers, or other public areas. iPass is a very good infrastructure company. [The Global Broadband Roaming] service will let iPass take the next great leap in the broadband arena."

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