The future of public wireless access points?
The future of public wireless access points?.
Wireless access points in Europe seem to be shaking out to one of three models; free access, islands of small networks, or bigger networks who charge you via your mobile bill.
Which model will win out? That's hard to say, the smaller independent operators may find a niche with their low running costs being paid by a few regular relatively immobile customers. The bigger networks may become ubiquitous, but will need to invest a significant amount to provide coverage that is worth paying for. But I can see the free networks being a major component in European wireless networking. These free networks will come in many guises, nodes run by enthusiasts on the end of their adsl lines, nodes run by shops, restaurants, cafes and bars to encourage their customers to linger a little longer and spend more, and community nodes paid for and sometimes even operated by local or national government and charities.
What do the varying models have to do to succeed?
The free networks have the easiest task, some simple promotion by word of mouth, warchalking, some in-venue instructions, consistency on sign in approaches and a few useful node databases, maybe even a tie in with a geo-location search tool like GeoUrl would probably be all these nodes need to do to be useful. When the goal is not to make money but just to provide a useful community asset then users per node, bandwidth, and ARPU become far less relevant. Initial evidence from the US implies that small cafes see a 6% increase in business when they offer free Wi-Fi.
For a small business running a free node to encourage footfall a simple node could be set up for a capital cost of around £150 for an access point and yearly costs of around £300 for an adsl line, so a small business would href="http://sport.independent.co.uk/football/leeds/story.jsp?story=408091">Leeds Utd plc's goldfish tank!
Isolated paid for networks are in a difficult position, unless they are in a prime location or have a captive audience, they're going to be outmanoeuvred by the other two models. They will need to do everything that free networks do for self promotion, with the disadvantage that some of the access point databases will decline to list them on "religious" grounds These networks will be disadvantaged by their higher running costs incurred due to administering and selling access, and the inherant clumsiness of the charging infrastructure. I can see these networks being as underused as the over-priced telephone systems in hotels unless there are significant benefits over nearby free networks, such as bandwidth, roamable charging and quality of service.
Big networks with charging to your mobile bill, again I'm not as positive about these as I am about the free networks, they're going to be very costly to set up and use. Set up - these networks will need a massive number of access points to provide sufficient coverage to be universal, and this will entail a vast infrastructure for the network, billing, admin and support. Usage costs, there's two reasons these aren't going to be cheap,>Jim Hughes
In the North East, USA we are starting to see a different model brewing. RBOCs using WiFi to grow their BroadBand service customer base and help them compete against other Broadband competition.
In New York, Verizon is creating a public WIFI network using existing public phone booth space. You just have to be a Verizon Online customer to use the service (seems to be there motivation for creating WiFi network - grow Verizon Online business). No extra charge. This will surely win them some new cable customers and increase existing customer loyalty and usage. The cable companies are just watching and waiting to jump in. Verizon already has the right to use the communications space on a huge amount of telephone poles in the North East. Basically owning that space makes it not very hard or expensive to create a WiFi HotSpot in a lot places (Next time you drive in North East take a notice of all the telephone poles - home of potential HotSpot or other short range RF device). Verizon and other companies that already have this kind of existing infrastructure seem to be holding a lot cards if you really think hard about really building a serious WiFi network out. The question is how well and fast will they execute. If they don't execute well, someone else will. Time will tell. H.G.