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iPass checks into StayOnline's network

The two companies reach an agreement allowing iPass virtual network customers to access StayOnline's hotel Wi-Fi networks.

Customers of iPass' connectivity software will be able to access the Internet in hotels using StayOnline's wireless networks.

Under an agreement to be announced Monday, iPass users will have access to StayOnline's network so they can use their laptops to securely and wirelessly surf the Web, send and receive corporate e-mail, and tap into their corporate networks from any of the hotels supported by StayOnline.

Based in Atlanta, StayOnline has more than 850 Wi-Fi access points in more than 100 hotels, including chains such as Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Marriott, Renaissance and Sheraton. Wi-Fi, also known as 802.11b, is a technology that allows the creation of wireless networks with a radius of around 300 feet.

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based iPass works with network service providers and adds its virtual network software to networks so they are secure enough for traveling workers to wirelessly access data from their company's network. iPass sells network and Internet services to businesses and other providers.

The agreement is an effort by both companies to keep business travelers connected at all times. Other companies have made similar moves. Boeing's wireless technology subsidiary Connexion by Boeing on Thursday said it's in the middle of introducing in-flight Internet service. Efforts by Intel to integrate Wi-Fi chips into its Centrino package also reflect the growing popularity of wireless networking.

Intel is an investor in iPass and late last year struck an agreement with iPass to collaborate on improving access of wireless networks used by the companies' business customers.

Companies have been looking for methods to provide services and become part of the grassroots community supporting Wi-Fi "hot spots" popping up in cafes, hotels, airport lounges and neighborhoods. Hot spots are places where wireless Web access is available to the public for a fee. So far, it's largely been a fragmented group using equipment with various methods of authorizing customers and billing them for time on the networks. More and more companies, such as iPass and Cometa Networks, have been targeting mobile professionals with their specific services.