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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sarahthomas1011 3/26/2015 | 1:38:43 PM
WiFi competition This is as much a response to its wireless competitors as it is to cable companies, who have increasingly large WiFi footprints and are also serving enterprises.

But, it's also a natural offering from AT&T, as more retailers look to offer WiFi that's separate from their own internal network. Consumers are coming to expect -- or at least appreciate -- free WiFi wherever they go.
Mitch Wagner 3/26/2015 | 1:45:27 PM
Re: WiFi competition Interesting to see a retailer offering the service. I guess they're not afraid of showrooming.

I wonder what kind of customer information the businesses can collect, if any. 
sarahthomas1011 3/26/2015 | 1:47:26 PM
Re: WiFi competition Outside of what they get just by virtue of someone signing on, they can request information as a condition of getting the free WiFi -- name, email or phone number, or perhaps even requiring you opt in to receive their emails. I've also seen WIFi offered through social media sign-on, which lets them connect with customers there. 
Mitch Wagner 3/26/2015 | 2:06:01 PM
Re: WiFi competition Some of the more interesting retail/wireless applications use precise location data to track customer movement as a proxy for customer interest. So, for example, the retailer Oil & Vinegar could find out whether browsers are more interested in, um, oil or vinegar by measuring whether they linger more at the oil shelves or the vinegar shelves. 
sarahthomas1011 3/26/2015 | 2:12:49 PM
Re: WiFi competition For sure, although I do have to wonder about the type of person that is spending so long browsing through oil and vinegar that it makes sense to jump on the WiFi network...
Mitch Wagner 3/26/2015 | 5:01:59 PM
Re: WiFi competition Beacons. That's the word I was looking for. Beacons provide the kind of pinpoint accuracy you need to do really interesting retail mobile applications. 

And there are a lot of choices to make in oil and vinegar. In vinegar alone you have balsamic, virgin, extra virgin, super-extra-virgin. In oil you have salad, motor....
MikeP688 3/27/2015 | 8:26:52 AM
Re: WiFi competition The bottom line as I see it based on @Sarah's thoughts and the interaction is this:  It is a draw--and the proflieration of Free-Wifi is fun to be witness to.   In my community today, I would see there is free Wi-Fi in almost 70% of the City--and I won't be surprised if this is the case in major metropolitan areas.    Glad to see AT&T is spreaheading a more "focused" effort on this--it goes to the commodization of this which will be ever so beneficial for the ordinary customer.

sarahthomas1011 3/27/2015 | 2:32:52 PM
AT&T suppliers Btw, I'm looking into who is providing AT&T with the access points and the software/interface for its WiFi service. That wasn't announced, although I know it's used Cisco APs in the past.
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.


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.
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