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Carrier WiFi

Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

2:40 PM -- CHICAGO -- 4G World 2011 -- Enjoy your wireless operator's free Wi-Fi while you still can, because it could soon be a thing of the past. Wireless operators will be investing up to nine figures in Wi-Fi by next year, according to a Ruckus Wireless Inc. exec, and they have to recoup it somehow.

Steven Glapa, senior director of field marketing at the Wi-Fi offload vendor, says that most operators are at least exploring how to charge for Wi-Fi now. Most, like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which has 29,000 hot spots, offer it free as a value-added service today. But Glapa says operators, in general, are considering bundling in an extra cost for the off-network access into data plans and counting that usage against the data cap.

“Once they have the policy management in place to integrate Wi-Fi into [their networks], you have those options,” Glapa said in a 4G World interview.

Right now most operators are approaching Wi-Fi as an easy way to dump data traffic off their networks, but as vendors introduce policy management solutions that let them keep an eye on users as they traverse between the networks, it’s becoming possible to track -- and monetize -- subscribers, regardless of what network they are on. (See Wireless Operators Embrace Wi-Fi as Their Own and Mobile Wi-Fi Offload.)

Charging for Wi-Fi seems to be the inevitable next step after doing away with unlimited data plans, but I’d advise the operators to tread carefully. Consumers may be used to paying for hotel and airport access, but they love operator Wi-Fi because it’s free and unlimited. Taking that away is sure to cause a backlash.

Or if they feel they have to charge for Wi-Fi, an extra $5 on the data plan may be forgivable, but also counting that use against the data cap will be a much harder pill to swallow.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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tnewby 12/5/2012 | 5:42:34 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

I don't see operators being able to charge for Wi-Fi - they don't control the Wi-Fi ecosystem.  One important, possible the most important, part of the Wi-Fi ecosystem is the places where you use Wi-Fi.  I don't see any large brands (the venue owners) allowing operators to charge for Wi-Fi.  The unarguable fact is that the operators don't control wether or not you can charge for Wi-Fi at a restaurant, hotel, cafe, etc... The owners of the venue dictate that.  Can you imagine Starbucks or McDonalds charging for Wi-Fi?  Taco Bell will be implementing Wi-Fi soon and they've already said that it would be free for customers.  So the question is, if 90% of public venues offer free Wi-Fi to it's customers how would operators charge for Wi-Fi?  Would they charge you $5 per month just to turn the Wi-Fi chipset on in your phone????  Yes, the term Netflixed comes to mind....

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:50:26 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

Shocking. Time to organize Occupy Hot Spot?

mobileinsider 12/5/2012 | 4:50:25 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

"Once they have the policy management in place to integrate Wi-Fi into [their networks], you have those options,” Glapa said.."


Guess Ruckus' gear does not inegrate with the carrier core. Cisco and BelAir already have this covered with Cable Cos and AT&T.


Wi-Fi as part of my monthly is a great feature...may even keep me from switching carriers once 'the next big thing' comes out.










 

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:50:25 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi traffic is integrated with most wireless operators' backends, but most aren't yet tracking it. I think the next wave is adding policy management and rules to Wi-Fi.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:50:25 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

I think shared data plans for multiple-device ownership or families is inevitable too. That can be a good thing, but I bet operators will charge to combine plans also.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:50:24 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

Wait a minute...


I get the idea that they have to long distance backhaul the cell traffic, but WiFi can be dumped locally.  To equate these is just plain wrong.


seven


 

rushal 12/5/2012 | 4:50:24 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

For example, there are AT&T wi-fi hotspots at various Starbucks outlets where any starbucks customer (or even a non-customer) can get access to wi-fi. How can they track that? $5 extra charge for AT&T subscribers is also not justified as not all of the wi-fi users are AT&T subscribers.

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:50:22 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

One key to business success is to make money every way you can. Now that users are hooked on wi-fi, why wouldn't operators look to turn that addiction into a revenue opportunity? Also, keep in mind that wi-fi isn't a zero-cost proposition, although it is very low cost compared with conventional mobile data service.

mj42 12/5/2012 | 4:50:22 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

If they do, they will charge for WiFI access because they can. It's about increasing revenue per customer. ATMs were installed to save banks money by requiring less tellers. Now banks charge to use ATMS. Providers have to be careful. If WiFi access is a per month charge and it still counts against the data cap then why pay the fee. Just keep your data onthe cellular network. It might be slower but it costs less. That will cost the carrier more money inthe long run.

billy_fold 12/5/2012 | 4:50:22 PM
re: Wave Goodbye to Free Wi-Fi

I may be wrong, but I think that WiFi actually saves money for the service provider because it reduces the amount of build out they have to do on their mobil network by off loading some of the traffic locally to the Internet.  I guess I don't understand why they should charge us to save them money.  They should pay us to use their WiFi or give us a credit against mobil usage if we use their free WiFi.


-BIlly

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