Verizon Joins Wayport Gang
According to spokeswoman Andrea Linskey, Verizon is looking at “between five and six hundred” hotspots activated today. The carrier declined to comment on future rollout targets.
Verizon's customers will be billed directly though their regular monthly contracts, an offering similar to the integrated voice service and hotspot access package provided by T-Mobile USA (see T-Mobile Unifies Wireless Billing). Prices diverge significantly, however -- a monthly $34.99 unlimited access plan from Verizon, compared with T-Mobile’s $19.99 deal.
Today’s move follows previous Wayport partnerships with rival carriers AT&T Wireless Services Inc. (NYSE: AWE) and Sprint PCS (NYSE: PCS) (see AT&T's Hotspot High Noon and Sprint Hits the 'Spot). IDC wireless analyst Keith Waryas estimates that in May this year Wayport was the third largest wireless LAN service provider in the U.S., trailing market leaders T-Mobile and Boingo Wireless Inc.
“Wayport has a pretty good footprint in airports and hotels, and with Verizon they receive access to the largest subscriber base in the country,” says Waryas. “It is almost like a landgrab out there at the moment. Carriers are grabbing all the locations they can and hoping that the roaming issues sort themselves out in the end. That may or may not happen.”
Despite recent skepticism over the revenue potential for public wireless LAN services, Verizon’s Linskey plays down fears that carriers are setting themselves up for a fall (see Is the Hotspot Honeymoon Over?).
“You have to look at it in both contexts,” she comments. “We are serving customer needs, but when customers roam onto wireless LAN hotspots it certainly generates good revenue for us.”
IDC’s Waryas remains doubtful. “The biggest fish that Sprint PCS, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless have to fry is wide-area network connectivity, not wireless LAN. Outside of T-Mobile, I am not convinced these guys see wireless LAN as a competitive driver, but rather something they simply have to offer.”
Verizon’s public hotspot effort leaves Cingular Wireless and Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) as the country’s only operators yet to announce plans for rollout.
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung