Public Wi-Fi: Europes Magic Broadband Bullet?

By Scott Smith  |  Posted 2003-03-17 Print this article Print

Guest commentary: While large-scale Wi-Fi hasn't yet caught the imagination of Europe, a bevy of recent announcements may spark the Continent's interest, writes industry analyst Scott Smith.

LONDON—A few interesting events made last week a great one for Europes Wi-Fi boosters. Monday started with BT announcing a hefty expansion of its hotspot network in London and across parts of the United Kingdom; and the product-free launch of 3, the U.K. and Europes first 3G operator.
Next, Broadcast Networks and Leisure Link, provider of amusement machines to pubs, announced a 30,000-location network of hotspots across Britain in what is to be called The Cloud. Finally, on Friday, Swisscom announced its acquisition of Megabeam, one of the earliest pan-European WLAN backbone operators offering service in hotels, airports and other public spaces, to build its Swisscom Eurospot business.
In the space of a week, progress in this sector, which had lagged in Europe, achieved the sudden burst of popular interest currently in the United States; Wi-Fi seems to have jumped from dirt track to autobahn. With the Swisscom move, operators are sure to begin laying their Wi-Fi cards on the table throughout the spring months, especially since interest in 3G operator 3 has been muted. Now a battle of big regional operators is shaping up, reminiscent of what we saw in the mobile phone and data markets in the past three years. Big operator battles of this sort are usually accompanied by infrastructure spending and heavy marketing—two things the marketplace needs in the current economic climate. The mishmash of business models is likely to be layered, as it has been in the U.S., with direct competition between charging operators business services and a melee of different "free" public models mixed with regional pay offerings. Theres been much talk of Wi-Fi being a complement to 3G. However, the dearth of users currently clamoring for 3G means large operators may deem packages that bridge GPRS and Wi-Fi an expensive sidetrack, at least for the time being.

In May 2005, Scott Smith assumed his current responsibilities as Executive Vice President and General Manager, Americas for Lenovo as the acquisition of IBM's former Personal Computing Division to Lenovo Group was completed. In this role, Scott leads all customer sales, marketing and operations activities for the Americas across the Lenovo portfolio.

Prior to Lenovo Scott held a number of key leadership positions at IBM in sales, marketing, service delivery and business line management in both the United States and abroad. In July 2004, Scott assumed the responsibility of vice president, Personal Computing Division, IBM Americas.

From 1995 to 1999, Scott held various executive positions in the Asia Pacific region which included Director, Engineering Solutions, Director, Manufacturing Solutions, General Manager, Networking and Storage Systems.

Upon returning to the United States, Scott assumed the position of Worldwide Vice President of sales, marketing & business line management for the Networking Hardware Division. He also had roles as vice president, e-business Solutions where he helped customers achieve the benefits of e-business through the implementation of IBM's solution offerings in the e-Commerce, Customer Relationship Management, Supply Chain Management, Enterprise Application Systems and e-Markets segments, vice president, Americas Server Sales where he was responsible for driving revenue and market share growth of the unified IBM eServer family of products. In his previous role, Scott held the position of vice president, Industrial Sector, IBM Americas. In this capacity, he was responsible for sales and support of the full range of IBM's information technology products, sales & service delivery and industry solutions. He led a diverse team dedicated to the global support of large enterprise customers in the Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Electronics and Chemicals & Petroleum Industries. He was also responsible for the total IBM customer relationship. By setting strategy, aligning resources and driving sales execution, he challenged his sales and delivery teams to leverage the full breadth of IBM's capabilities to help customers realize successful business results and achieve a competitive business advantage.

Scott holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Industrial Distribution from Clarkson University. He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. He is a member of the IBM Senior Leadership Team.

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