Friday, February 24, 2006

Dean Bubley: WiFi hotspot roaming and pricing

Dean Bubley posts at the's Disruptive Wireless blog about the NetEvents conference in Germany. One of the presentations he heard was on the future of networking and communications in 2010 and beyond. The speaker made a points that "we should expect good, international and national WiFi hotspot roaming and interconnect. Not perfect, he said, but equivalent to cellular roaming or ATM machines - it usually works OK, albeit with the occasional glitch."

Bubley thinks its "not an unreasonable assertion," but wonders "how well this works with roaming not just between major hotspot owners (T-Mobile, Boingo, BT OpenZone, The Cloud etc), but also with privately owned WiFi (residential & office) which is in my view much more important than public WiFi."

Bubley believes that "Any solution, especially if aimed at the massmarket, must default to the proposition "use free WiFi wherever possible, and paid-for hotspots only where it's absolutely essential"."

He opines "Public WiFi pricing is ludicrous. £6 for an hour is typical in the UK, many European hotels charge €25 per day. Yes, it's cheaper in the US, but it's still overpriced." Bubley suggests the right price is "Zero" and an acceptabel price is $1 an hour for "carrier-grade" WiFi. He states:

There is absolutely no justification for WiFi to be more expensive than Internet cafes / Internet shops. How can those places (and I've used them in more than 50 countries) uniformly offer good, fast Internet connectivity for $1-3 per hour? And they are paying for the PCs, LANs and all the rest of the infrastructure. With WiFi it's the customer's capex - their laptop or PDA.
He concludes that "until we have sensible hotspot pricing, this is all just a tiny niche market for business travellers on expensives... and even then CIOs wince at the costs."

I don't use public Wi-Fi that much because it's a pain to lug my notebook around. When I do, I try to find a Barnes & Noble since I get SBC's Freedomlink Wi-Fi network for an extra $2 a month because I'm a DSL customer. If I ever get a Wi-Fi enabled handset then usage habits will probably change...