Enterprise networking communications company iPass announced it is making its Open Mobile Exchange platform available to service providers to integrate Wi-Fi with 3G and 4G networks.

Operators are keen to integrate Wi-Fi with their macro networks as a way to offload data traffic and extend coverage. Standards groups are working on ways to make the integration seamless and secure, but iPass is bringing the piece that lets providers make the necessary roaming agreements with hotspot owners.
iPass counts about 300 network providers around the world that have integrated the company’s authentication software. It has primarily been focused on selling enterprises communications services that include global broadband access at more than 518,000 venues, including Wi-Fi. It now has adapted its platform for authenticating all of these users to the commercial mobile network world.

iPass OMX combines a mobile data-offload solution with integrated Wi-Fi services for both domestic and international data roaming, allowing service providers to deliver Wi-Fi connectivity that functions like mobile data roaming and automatically connecting users to preferred networks by leveraging iPass’s half-million hotspots or others that operators make deals with.

“From the carrier’s point of view, they need to offer a global Wi-Fi solution as part of their bill,” said iPass CEO and president Evan Kaplan. “People want global Wi-Fi as part of their bill … The overriding theme is that Wi-Fi is going to become a carrier phenomenon.”

iPass’s OMX already has been adopted by Deutsche Telekom as part of its Wi-Fi Mobilize service announced last month. Wi-Fi Mobilize is a new network services exchange for in-country and international roaming services.

The offering won’t necessarily have a direct impact on iPass’ enterprise customers, but it will bolster the company’s ability to offer a wider breadth of coverage to the enterprise market.

“It pushes us more aggressively in the smartphone and automatic-offload market, and it also continues to make us the go-to provider of choice for independent Wi-Fi providers around the world,” Kaplan said.

Moreover, iPass’ platform can be used by a variety of players, not just mobile operators. A number of wholesale companies are expected to pop up and offer Wi-Fi services to mobile operators. New York-based Towerstream, which sells WiMAX to businesses, is constructing massive Wi-Fi hotspots — called hotzones — in major metropolitan areas, where data traffic is highest, to offer Wi-Fi offloading for operators on a wholesale basis.