On Monday, Cisco Systems announced its Internet Mobile Office initiative, intended to give mobile workers secure broadband access to an enterprise network in such places as hotels, conventions centers, airports and even coffee houses.
The initiative includes a series of partnerships with service providers and network integration firms to install Cisco wireless and wired network equipment in public venues such as Hilton hotels, convention halls, airports and Starbucks Coffee shops. A Global Broadband Roaming Service, which provides pay-as-you-go, high-speed VPN access from public venues also was announced.
Travelers accessing e-mail and the Web at airports, hotels and convention centers usually must pay a fee for each access, says Ron Willis, vice president of marketing for Cisco's commercial line of business. This can get unwieldy and expensive for corporations with a large workforce of road warriors.
"In one day, you could have paid four or five charges of US$10 to US$15 each," Willis says. "Companies want reasonable charges for this kind of access, and a single bill at the end of the month."
Having Cisco's VPN technology installed in venues enabled for Internet Mobile Office ensures that connections from any of the designated public areas are secure, Willis adds.
Cisco is partnering with several service providers, including Global Digital Media, MobileStar and Wayport, which provide Internet services to the hotel and hospitality industries. Also involved in the initiative are system integrators Electronic Data Systems and Concourse Communications Group, which will install the Cisco-based VPN and wireless technologies.
On the road, business travelers use a laptop with Cisco's client software and an Aironet wireless LAN PC card to access the Internet or a corporate VPN. Mobile access service can be purchased from any of the Cisco partner service providers, from which businesses would receive one bill for an employee's roaming broadband charges even if services from other provider partners are used.
CAISSoft billing settlement software acquired last month from CAIS Internet is used to organize charges from multiple venue service providers into a single bill for end-users. Cisco has also partnered with iPass - a maker of remote access client software - to integrate iPassConnect and Cisco Secure VPN software into a single user interface to be used with the Cisco Global Broadband Roaming Service.
Cisco products, including modular access routers, Catalyst LAN switches and Aironet wireless LAN access points, will be installed in public venues to provide client access to their Mobile Office Network. Cisco VPN products will be used at hospitality service provider facilities to securely link up roaming users with their corporate networks.
Three hundred "hot spots" around the country currently offer the Internet Mobile Office service with Cisco products. A map of locations is available at http://www.cisco.com/go/mobileoffice