era of 'Public Internet Access' started from 1996 through the
business names of 'Cyber Cafés, Cyber Parlour, Public Internet
Kiosks, etc'. All mean more or less that same model of business
'Selling Bandwidth to the Public'. When these businesses were
started, there was no great accounting package and the billing was
made 'on per head' basis, manually. When the business was matured,
there was an acute need of 'Internet Billing Software' for Cyber
are two types of billing enabled. Prepaid and Postpaid Models.
Prepaid billing became successful inside the cafes, and Postpaid
billing because successful for the ISP businesses, where the
billing cycle is monthly or Bi-Monthly. In the prepaid billing
model, small hours are sold and hence the number of tickets will
be more and the expired tickets (or users) can be cleaned on
either weekly or monthly basis without any problem. In the
postpaid scenario, the number of users will be less but the number
of sessions per 'each
user' will be more. Hence, the need for
'familiar username' arose, and the user prefers to register
himself with his preferred username (instead of randomly generate
username as in the case of prepaid tickets in cybercafes).
the concept of WiFi had existed for more than a decade, the
downtrend in the pricing of laptops, PDAs and iPhones is felt for
the past three years, and these mobile computing devices were
picked up. This redefines the necessary of 'WiFi billing'. The
importance of these 'WiFi billing' was augmented because of the
pressure from the 'Premier Hotels' who met with the demands of
InRoom WiFi Access by their guests. Though some hotels prefers
giving away the WiFi access free to their guests, because of the
insecure nature of WiFi, the access control and billing became
inevitable. Many of the hotels implemented prepaid WiFi biling,
and the bills were manually posted to their 'Hotel Management
Software'. However, the top-notch hotels prefer 'Room Based
PostPaid Billing' to their guests, and the Internet Bills are
posted automatically to the 'Hotel Management Software' and the
customer will get a single bill during checkout.
the initial phase, the method of billing was awkward, and the
hotel supplies 'CAT 6 cable' to connect their laptop to an RJ45
Wall Jack. In one another method, the laptop customer has to
install a small setup software to access internet. Thought this
method was adapted by even major players such as Boingo, iPass,
etc, latpop customers are NOT convinced of installing some third
party software into their laptop for security reasons. Some of the
corporate laptop users are even restricted from installing any
programs or changing settings in their laptops. Some of the
following authentication techniques were adapted ineffectively.
An ethernet cable will be supplied to each employee to connect his
laptop to the RJ45 wall jacket in his room.
Hotel will either pull out or pull in the respective port number
of the switch related to the hotel room to allow/deny internet
MAC based authentication (customer's laptop's MAC address will be
manually entered inside the WiFi access points).
Inserting shared keys in the laptop and access points.
of the above method was palatable to the customers and this
created a demand for new technology which should NOT ask the
customers to install anything in their laptop or to make any
settings. The best way was to intercept the traffic between the
laptop and internet router. The software must sniff the packets
transferred between the laptop and must insert the login page (or
AUP page) before proceeding to access internet in the browser
itself. Hence, this method of authentication is suitable for any
OS, any browser, any laptop, or any access point, or any media
(even this supports wired neworks also). This technology was
already available in the name of 'Captive Portal' and this could
be easily integrated into AAA (Authentication, Authorization and
Accounting) which was an excellent fit for 'User Level
captive portal mechanism and AAA mechanisms and its database can
be broken down into modules. For example, the 'Captive Portal' can
be implemented in a hardware router and is available inside the
Hotel. The 'Captive Portal' mechanism can authenticate the users
tries to access Internet, by referring a RADIUS Server available
with any other 'Third party RADIUS Service Provider. Even the
database sever can also be outsourced to another database service
provider. Hence, this type of billing mechanism can be broken down
into three parts as follows:
1. Captive Portal Mechanism (and access points) are implemented by
System Integrator to the Hotels, Cafes, Apartments.
RADIUS Server can be offered by the software developer.
Database engine can be offered by Database server hosting company.
the above components are not necessarily to be offered by a single
vendor. A service provider can provide any one of the above
services and can always outsource the other serivce components
from any of the other service providers. This led to the explosion
of outsourcing billing business model, and it is excellently
received by the hotels because of the quality, efficiency and
accuracy of the billing method.
WiFi industry slowly spreading its tentacles from premier hotels
to colleges, university hostels, cafes, etc. It is expected that
Mesh and Metropolitan WiFi network will accelerate the growth