Originally Posted by Scott R
1) What does this super-fancy $700 access point do that a sub-$100 SMC (or whatever brand you like) wireless router does not?
2) I think that if I owned a coffee shop, I'd want to sidestep all of this nonsense and just let paying customers use my wireless access for free or perhaps charge a small fee for use by the hour (or some block of time). I guess I still have trouble imagining a lot of people paying $25-50/month to subscribe to something like this.
We use that particular piece of hardware for our own HotSpot program here in Fairfax, VA. The hardware is a hybrid access point/access controller, the Colubris CN3000. In boingo's case, the one you buy from them comes pre-configured to connect to their back end/billing system. You can tie it into just about anything really.
It differs from a regular access point in that it has hooks in it to control a users access to the web.
When a user attempts to use the web, it redirects to a login screen to validate their account. Once the account is authenticated, the gate is open, and they can surf as they want.
Accounting and login control can be tied into other systems, primarily radius based systems. When it comes to deploying other sites, you just drop one of these units in, and a line. It ties back to your network control center for use authetnication and validation via a secure tunnel.
With it and a good radius server you have flexibility on how you allow for accounting of data, bandwidth/quota, access times, and priveleges and so forth.
It makes it extremely easy and cost effective to deploy a pay-per use network hotspot program (re: one small low profile box, easily replicated and deployed). Firmware updates can be automated, and everything is tied to one or more database.
Now, if you want to just provide free access, the answer is simple. Just drop a regular access point in. This does have some additional information for accounting, if you're doing this for a chain of small coffee houses or something. You'd be able to get buy with regular radius accounting then.
Boingo has several models, where you're basically just providing a node in their network, in which case you get a bounty per day for each person using it, and a bounty for existing users. Other providers can also provide their own level of service as well as let boingo users roam onto their network.
Brian J. Burke