Infonet beefing up remote-access options

Infonet Services has widened an offering that lets VPN customers access their corporate networks from around the globe via multiple access services, including Wi-Fi.

The multinational service provider last week introduced MobileXpress Professional, which couples Infonet's old DialXpress service with new Wi-Fi support and a new name.

Infonet introduced MobileXpress late last year after it inked a deal with Boingo Wireless to integrate the aggregator's Wi-Fi hot spots with its new offering.

Infonet also has expanded its relationship with Gric Communications to use its hot spots around the world, which make up its 2,300-hot-spot network that spans 17 countries. The carrier says it will expand its Wi-Fi network to more than 10,000 hot spots within the next year.

The service also includes dial-up, ISDN and DSL access in 110 countries.

The service comes with client software that automatically detects all access options for a user based on his location using a feature called Mobiscan, says Greg Hayes, director of mobility services at Infonet. This feature also enforces corporate network policies if a user is accessing the VPN over a dial-up or wireless LAN connection. Infonet says it developed its client in-house in addition to integrating a few software modules from Boingo.

The service includes MobileXpress Toolkit, which network managers can use to establish and monitor policies, customize the software and manage user security.

Customers can purchase the MobileXpress service to gain access to their own in-house VPNs, but Infonet is primarily targeting its existing managed VPN customers, Hayes says.

Infonet notes that aggregator service providers such as iPass and Gric typically offer access to in-house VPNs, but Infonet offers more than that. "We manage solutions, [iPass and Gric] manage vendors," Hayes says. "We focus on managed services."

While Infonet has a deal with Gric to use its backbone, which consists of hundreds of other carrier networks from around the world, it is also competing with the company. In the past Gric almost exclusively sold its services through other service providers such as Infonet. But now the carrier is more aggressively selling directly to enterprise users. IPass, Gric's most direct competitor, has also made the switch and is selling its remote access services directly to users.

MobileXpress Professional is the carrier's first version of the service, Hayes says. The carrier plans to launch a MobileXpress Office service that will target small office/home office users later this year.

Infonet also plans to incorporate mobile wireless data support, he says. This version also will support wireless data services based on Code Division Multiple Access 1x Evolution Data Only, General Packet Radio Service and other 3G technologies.

Fiberlink, which provides secure remote access services, offers mobile wireless support.Fiberlink announced earlier this month that its Extend360 client now supports a mobile wireless data access option that lets customers access their corporate VPN using any service provider's service.

Fiberlink, like Gric and iPass, also offers Wi-Fi, dial-up and broadband access options to its business customers. And it has teamed with Boingo to build out its Wi-Fi network.

Infonet's MobileXpress Professional service is priced based on a user's location, as Infonet breaks the world into five regions with different pricing. Users then pay an hourly service rate, which varies depending on the access service they use.

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.