Carrier WiFi

AT&T Woos SMBs With Small-Scale WiFi

SMBs have a number of suitors and technologies to choose from these days, with the latest courtship coming from AT&T, which announced a new WiFi-Small Site service for the enterprise Thursday.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) WiFi-Small Site's value proposition is straightforward. The carrier will provide a business its own self-install access point so they can then offer their customers free public WiFi separate from their own internal WiFi offering. The carrier says it's ideal for professional offices, restaurants and retail stores wanting to offer branded WiFi for public use -- and collect customer details from it -- and keep their employees on their own private, secure networks.

One AT&T customer, Oil & Vinegar, says it's using the service in its retail outlet as a way to encourage customers to interact with it on social media as they browse the store.

WiFi-Small Site runs on a business's existing connections and requires speeds of at least 6Mbit/s. The carrier is offering it as part of its All for Less package targeted at small businesses looking to bundle enterprise services and productivity apps. Earlier this month, AT&T also announced a partnership with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to bundle its office services with AT&T devices.

Read more about mobile operators' plans for the enterprise on the managed services content channel here on Light Reading.

Why this matters
When it comes to customer acquisitions, all eyes are on the SMB market right now, especially with the cable industry making strong inroads into it. AT&T has said it will be first-and-foremost an enterprise-focused company going forward, a statement it is reinforcing with announcements like WiFi-Small Site. Earlier this month, T-Mobile US Inc. launched its latest Uncarrier move, squarely focused on the enterprise market, and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) unveiled a complete Workplace-as-a-Service offering designed for the SMB space.

This is a space that has long challenged the major US wireless operators, deemed to be too expensive and too time- and resource-consuming to crack into. Or, they figured it was locked up by small, local providers. That attitude is starting to change, however.

Virtualization and the cloud are helping to reduce the need for human capital by automating processes and moving support online. Small cells and WiFi are also making it easier on the connectivity front, giving SMBs options that are easy to install and don't break the bank. The SMB market has a lot of potential to bring in new revenues for service providers, and the good news is, companies in this space now have more options than ever before.

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Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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brooks7 3/30/2015 | 12:50:12 PM
Re: WiFi competition "I imagine AT&T would be more than happy to be that partner to help them make use of their analytics. It's fairly easy to do so, and would just be a matter of if that small business is willing to pay for the capability. "

Sara - I disagree with your statement.  The collection of the data is simple.  You are correct about that.  The problem at a Small Business Level is what do people do with it.  I work with a LOT of Small Businesses.  Many of them are not good marketing folks or operations folks.  So to me AT&T should have an open ecosystem to allow not just the technology partnerships to flourish but the human ones (consultancies).  


MordyK 3/30/2015 | 12:24:11 PM
Re: WiFi competition WHile analytics is a means of utilizing the data, its about the ability to create actionable items using the data which is a whole lot more complicated, and if you have a unique need it needs to be a wide open easy to use API kit.
sarahthomas1011 3/30/2015 | 12:08:37 PM
Re: WiFi competition I imagine AT&T would be more than happy to be that partner to help them make use of their analytics. It's fairly easy to do so, and would just be a matter of if that small business is willing to pay for the capability. 
sarahthomas1011 3/30/2015 | 12:06:16 PM
Re: AT&T suppliers Answer: AT&T is not disclosing... Sorry, folks. Will keep digging.
Phil_Britt 3/30/2015 | 8:48:46 AM
Oil & Vinegar Shows the Way Oil & Vinegar's reasoning is intriguing and can likly be expanded upon by this company and others. If prospects/customers are already interacting, it's relatively easy to send a discount offer for something they are researching, particularly if it is a slow-moving item.
MordyK 3/28/2015 | 4:28:31 PM
Re: WiFi competition analytics is only one thing that can be done with data, hence the need for a broad array of application using said data. An example of a use case would be real-time and personalized customer engagement.

I am working on a project at the moment where this would be extremely interesting.
mendyk 3/28/2015 | 4:15:11 PM
Re: WiFi competition Square has a very direct and utilitarian purpose for small businesses, which is why it has gained some traction. Not to dismiss the use of analytics for small businesses altogether, but the percentage of small businesses that need or want that level of data engagement is much less than 100%. Certain businesses in certain markets with a certain size will find the approach promising enough to invest money and time in it. But this isn't a deep pool of opportunity -- it's more like a very wide and very shallow puddle.
MordyK 3/28/2015 | 1:58:25 PM
Re: WiFi competition Seven alluded to an important factor, which is the need for easily developed or available third party tools. Most shops will not have the ability to gain any value from the data without the assistance and availability of third party tools, which is the promise of products like Square or the new SHopkeep.
mendyk 3/28/2015 | 10:48:44 AM
Re: WiFi competition The artisan brewers in Upper Hipsterville understand that the most important ingredient to their success is not the hops or the barley or the essence of pomegranate, but applying analytics to captured social media interactions to know what their customers are thinking before they even think it.
brooks7 3/27/2015 | 7:27:28 PM
Re: WiFi competition The thing is a 50 person business is not going to do a lot with creating/sifting data without a partner...maybe that is an opportunity to build on top of the service to provide capability to these store - that if they are truly SMBs - have no IT people or a single desktop support person.


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