Frontier Sees WiFi as SMB Differentiator
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.
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