TapRoot Systems this week began offering a freely downloadable version of a recently launched carrier product that turns Wi-Fi-equipped 3G smartphones into wireless hotspots, in an effort to simplify mobile Internet access.
The carrier version of Walking Hot Spot, introduced last month, depends on a wireless carrier buying the system and offering it to customers. The new version, a trial operated by TapRoot, has certain limitations such as the number of devices supported, TapRoot said.
With Walking Hot Spot, TapRoot is promoting a wireless connectivity model that attempts to link the ease of use of a typical Wi-Fi hotspot or home router with the portability of a mobile phone.
"Our belief is that Walking Hot Spot provides the solution to leverage existing 3G infrastructure and smartphones already in the marketplace," said TapRoot chief executive Bob Bicksler, in a statement.
The company said its model is easier to use and more secure than the techniques typically used today for connecting laptops or other Wi-Fi devices to the Internet via a mobile phone, such as Bluetooth links.
Unlike a Bluetooth link, the Walking Hot Spot architecture includes an authentication server on the back end, either operated by the carrier or installed by an enterprise.
WHS Server allows carriers or enterprises to manage and control subscriber accounts, authenticate Walking Hot Spot devices and clients, and collect subscriber usage information.
Users can also control security directly via settings on the smartphone. The carrier version supports multiple, simultaneous devices over secure connections.
The application is delivered over the air to smartphones, with download and set-up taking five minutes, TapRoot said. It supports Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile 6 Professional operating systems, with others expected to be supported later in the year.
Wi-Fi has only recently become a significant feature in mobile phones. As recently as 2006, mobile operator O2 said it would concentrate on GSM and 3G technologies in its phones instead of Wi-Fi.
More recently, mobile phones including Wi-Fi have become more common. Apple's Wi-Fi equipped iPhone alone, for instance, had sold four million units as of early this year, Apple said in January.