Devicescape gets big boost with Intel deal

OVUM VIEW

Summary

On May 30, Devicescape announced that its connection manager software, which includes access to its virtual Wi-Fi network, would be embedded in Intel’s SmartConnect platform for Wi-Fi enabled devices. The virtual Wi-Fi network consists of hotspots that Devicescape has discovered over the years by way of its crowdsourcing software. Devices enabled with the vendor’s application communicate location and logon information of hotspots they encounter back to Devicescape. The company then qualifies the locations and adds them to its hotspot directory so that other users can also access those networks. We assume that final inclusion of Devicescape’s connection manager is left up to the device maker. Even without full inclusion on every Intel partner device, working with Intel raises Devicescape’s market profile and gives it greater credibility. It should also help Devicescape build up its virtual network, which in turn should make its solution more attractive to mobile operators.

A big step forward for Devicescape

Having its connection manager software, which includes access to its virtual Wi-Fi network, included as part of Intel’s SmartConnect platform is a big step forward for Devicescape. Devicescape has had other notable wins for its Wi-Fi offload solution in the past, such as with MetroPCS and iPass, but none as high-profile as Intel. This deal gives Devicescape increased market credibility.

This credibility should help open other doors for Devicescape, including those of more mobile operators. The increased interest in Wi-Fi offload has driven new players into the market, with Ericsson being the most notable example. This puts pressure on Devicescape to raise its image, which it just did with Intel.

The deal will also help with crowdsourcing

As discussed earlier, crowdsourcing drives Devicescape’s virtual hotspot network. The more hotspots Devicescape’s users find, the bigger Devicescape’s network grows. Working with Intel will obviously help get Devicescape’s application on more devices and grow its hotspot directory. In turn, the bigger the directory, the more high-quality access points Devicescape will be able to provide.

Devicescape says it only makes available about 8% of the over 100 million access points that it has in its database. This is because of quality issues caused by factors such as network congestion. Operators can narrow Devicescape’s list even further by layering in their own network qualifications on top of Devicescape’s. But the more sites Devicescape is aware of in total, the more quality sites it should be able to include.

Increased site quality will help the vendor gain traction with mobile operators. A recent survey of mobile operators conducted by Ovum found that most of them expected to partner with other Wi-Fi network operators. A significant portion of them are willing to use untrusted sites. Untrusted sites would include those from restaurants or retail locations that aren’t managed by a service provider – ideal locations to be discovered through crowdsourcing. However, operators communicated concerns over using crowdsourcing to build out Wi-Fi networks due to quality concerns. Devicescape’s increased exposure to more locations by way of its relationship with Intel could alleviate some of those concerns and increase the overall integrity of its offering.

Intel is good, but it isn’t a mobile operator

While this deal with Intel is an important step for Devicescape, it isn’t the same as working with a tier-1 mobile operator. Intel and computer vendors generally don’t run wireless network services. Their reputations aren’t tied to the quality of the Wi-Fi network. The opposite is true for mobile operators, whose reputations can be easily hurt if they offer their subscribers a substandard network experience. Devicescape needs to leverage its relationship with Intel to improve its virtual network and increase its attractiveness to mobile operators. As Devicescape makes its money through licensing software, the revenue opportunity with cell phones is too big to ignore. Intel is a major step forward, but one that needs to be followed by increased adoption by mobile operators.

APPENDIX

Further reading

Mobile Operator Survey About Wi-Fi Offload, May 2012

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