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Frontier Sees WiFi as SMB Differentiator

Carol Wilson
8/25/2014
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After successfully deploying WiFi on a broad scale at the American Tobacco Campus (ATC) in Durham, N.C., Frontier Communications is now taking a different approach to selling the wireless service, focused more on helping its business customers monetize WiFi as part of a larger business strategy and offering tools to help that happen.

Speaking at Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN)'s analyst/press event earlier this month, Dennis Bloss, the carrier's VP/GM North Carolina, explained how Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR) set up the WiFi system based on Adtran's Blue Socket technology for both the ATC campus and the Durham Bulls' baseball stadium, located with the ATC in the American Tobacco Historic District -- a large downtown entertainment area built where Lucky Strike cigarettes were once produced.

The deployment, which is fed by a 1Gbit/s pipe into Frontier's core network, provides managed WiFi access for the public spaces of the district, as well as pervasive WiFi coverage of the Bulls' stadium that lets virtually all of the potential 9,000 spectators be online at once.

It faced multiple engineering challenges -- namely, avoiding interference with as many as 75 businesses using their own WiFi networks at the edge of the ATC, and making sure not to become a free source of access for the businesses in an on-campus incubator.

The latter requirement means constantly monitoring the systems to detect persistent activity by a single user, and then responding by either shutting down that user or, more likely, just slowing down the access to make it less attractive, Bloss said. By providing that level of service, as well as technical support through Adtran's ProCloud service, Frontier is delivering more of a business WiFi product.


Read more about carrier WiFi strategies on the carrier WiFi section of our mobile site, where we look at both carrier and vendor news.


Frontier is now looking at how WiFi can be bundled with other managed services, for example as part of an Ethernet service package, so that smaller businesses can use WiFi connectivity to enhance their services as well. The more professional managed services approach can be a differentiating factor for Frontier, as it faces increasingly intense competition from cable and others for SMB business, Bloss said in a Q&A moderated by Light Reading.

The Bulls are still working on a variety of options for monetizing their WiFi network, including publicizing concession specials, alerting patrons to shorter lines and streaming video replays to WiFi users as well.

Getting involved with ATC and the Bulls has helped Frontier to significantly raise its profile and cement its brand name in the region, where it acquired the local footprint as part of the Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) deal. Few people had heard of Frontier prior to this connection, Bloss admitted.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2014 | 9:27:56 AM
Re: Puff puff
https://www.linkedin.com/company/outhouse-apps-llc

seven
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2014 | 8:39:33 AM
Re: Puff puff
Carol will testify that I'm full of ... ideas like the Out House app. Let's hope someone from Frontier has a computer and reads our message board. I smell an Employee of the Month award for that fortunate person.
kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/26/2014 | 8:37:04 AM
Re: Puff puff
That might be a teriffic way to get some PR going. The outhouse app would probably go viral just from the publicity generated as Frontier gets it's brand out there riding along with that and other stadium event apps.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/25/2014 | 8:50:46 PM
Bull
Will Crash Davis add free wifi to the list of things he believes in?
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 3:57:51 PM
Re: On a bit more serious note
What's stumping me a bit is the "monetization" aspect. In this specific case, Frontier seems to be focused on brand-building, which makes sense given the details in Carol's story. But unless this is a must-have service from the SMB's point of view -- and therefore something they'd be willing to pay for -- I don't see how an operator can make money off this kind of managed service.
brooks7
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50%
brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 3:45:46 PM
Re: On a bit more serious note
Dennis,

I get the "Hey you can offer free WiFi" thing that the cable guys are doing.

I also concur that the cheapest is the best.

I also get that this is an article about an interesting idea for telcos sort of.  That is that this is not a new service except the managed service bit of it.

To me the notion that WiFi is big is not the news. It is the managed service offering.  Seems to me that a wireline only company like Frontier would copy the cable guys here.  Not like they are going to buy Tmobile or Sprint (well maybe Centurylink will - that actually seems quite sensible to me...).

 

seven
mendyk
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50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 2:34:55 PM
Re: On a bit more serious note
For the site owner, I would guess the better strategy is the one that brings in more revenue with the least amount of expense. Antenna siting could work but it would depend on a list of variables, including maybe local ordinances and basestation security costs. Cable companies are finding a lot of willing SMB partners for Wi-Fi just because it's a simple value proposition.
brooks7
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50%
brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 2:24:30 PM
On a bit more serious note
 

Carol/Dennis,

I get it from Frontier's standpoint.  Not sure I see much other than free WiFi but hey that's me.

But here is my question:  If I were the Bulls, would I be better off renting out Lightpole space for Cellular Antenna locations?  In this case, what does WiFi give that I can't get from 4G?  Off network bandwidth that doesn't count against my cap?

seven

 
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/25/2014 | 1:58:30 PM
Re: Puff puff
The restroom app can be called the Out House. Feel free to pass that along.
cnwedit
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50%
cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/25/2014 | 1:46:03 PM
Re: Puff puff
Actually, I thought one obvious usage would be wait times at the bathroom, but maybe that's just for the female fans. 

There are also ways to actually order concessions, and in some places, they will deliver them to your seat. 

I don't think folks decide to go to a baseball game based on the free WiFi, but if it enhances the experience, they will go more often. 
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