SFR Selects Quiconnect To Enhance Its Public WLAN Network Globally

Quiconnect announced that it has been chosen by SFR to broaden and enhance the French mobile network operator's global WLAN roaming network by establishing exclusive bilateral interconnections with the world's largest telecommunications companies, with particular focus in North America, Europe and Asia.

Capitalising on Quiconnect's extensive experience as a systems integrator specialising in public WLAN interconnectivity and the numerous agreements already signed by Quiconnect with service providers and network operators globally, it is expected that up to 12 new bilateral interconnection deals will be established for SFR in the next 12 months.

The first of these will be completed with PT Wi-Fi, part of the PT Telecom Group (Portugal). This means that SFR customers travelling to Portugal will now be able to log in easily at public hotspots operated by these carriers, yet be billed by SFR directly upon their return.

Jointly owned by Vodafone and Vivendi, with more than 17.9 million customers and 8,000 employees, SFR is the second largest mobile telecommunications operator in France. Working with key location owners throughout France, SFR has deployed a 400 location hotspot network at key high quality high traffic sites, with a further 400 to be added in 2007.

With a particular focus on the Paris region, this will mean that there will be more than 550 locations in the capital alone, with customers able to get open air Wi-Fi access at La Défense, Europe's largest business district, along with 4 French airports and hundreds of Exclusive, Best Western and Lucien Barrière operated hotels throughout the country.

Frédéric Bruneteau, SFR's director of Wi-Fi roaming, says, "With our Wi-Fi traffic tripling since 2005, it is core to our business and of strategic importance. Firstly, we want to sell Wi-Fi to our existing customers who use our GSM, GPRS, 3G and HSDPA-based services, secondly, provide Wi-Fi coverage to customers where GSM is not available or 3G coverage is poor such as in China and the USA. And thirdly, we want to increase revenue and usage of our network from inbound traffic from foreign telecom operators."

Quiconnect's approach is unique in the market as SFR users logging onto third party-owned hotspots are automatically routed to a familiar SFR branded login page, authenticated using RADIUS, with Quiconnect then providing all the necessary billing services.

Quiconnect was also selected because it is a Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) approved WRIX[1] partner, and therefore will be able to assist SFR to connect with other WBA members. The WBA is an industry alliance created in 2003 comprising the world's leading telecommunications companies to drive adoption of wireless broadband technologies and services around the world through the development of common commercial, technical and marketing frameworks for wireless network interoperability.

Jeff Mabe, Quiconnect's worldwide commercial director, says, "SFR selected us because we have the ability to fast track them to get the bilateral interconnection deals they want with big telecoms companies. This is evidenced by the fact that an agreement has been signed within a month with PT Wi-Fi."

For partners like PT Wi-Fi, Quiconnect is opening up the French market by allowing their customers to roam easily and use SFR operated hotspot infrastructure. This is of significance, as France is the biggest tourist destination in the world with some 76 million visitors coming to the country each year.

By the end of June 2007, Quiconnect will also connect SFR to Coordinate Technologies Communication Limited (CTCL), a systems integrator providing exclusive Wi-Fi interconnectivity services to the main Chinese telcos - including China Mobile, China Netcom and China Telecom - who operate over 3,000 business grade hotspots at key strategic locations throughout the country.

For the first time, this bilateral access agreement will offer SFR-branded access at hotspots for customers as they travel in China, with subscribers of the three Chinese telcos able to use SFR-owned infrastructure when visiting France, yet be billed by their home telco..

Key Quiconnect customers include various WBA members like BT, True Thailand, VSNL and Portugal Telecom, along with other non-WBA telcos such as Sprint, VEX and Vodafone, plus a host of network operators including The Cloud, Internet Solutions, Kubi Wireless, Naxos, Meteor Networks, BeeNet, Hub Télécom among others.

[1]Wireless Roaming Intermediary Exchange. This is a new standard created by the WBA in 2006 with the express purpose of standardising and simplifying how Network Operators and Service Providers interconnect technically to extend their network footprint in order to provide WLAN access to their subscribers on the move.

To date, these interconnections have been bespoke, complicated and difficult to manage. The WRIX standard addresses these issues by standardising various criteria in terms of technical interconnections, data and reporting, as well as financial and clearing house services.