Delivering Wi

By Carol Ellison  |  Posted 2004-05-26 Print this article Print

-Fi"> The issue is whether Wi-Fi will deliver what McDonalds wants. Dan Lowden, Wayports vice president of marketing, said he believes it will. Wi-Fi service, he told me, has already proven to be a differentiator in the airport and hotel business. "If a hotel does not have hot-spot Internet access, theyre losing occupancy," he said. "From that standpoint, business is very, very good."
Lowden said he looks for Wayport to repeat the success nationally that it enjoyed in its McDonalds trial markets. Wayport deployed hot spots in test markets in San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Raleigh, N.C.; and Boise, Idaho.
"We found that theres a lot of interest from people in using the service," Lowden said. Why? According to Lowden, users know they can get connectivity in hotels and airports, but Wi-Fi service remains limited in conventional venues that people frequent on a daily basis. But it might be a while before families start toting laptops into their favorite haunts. A survey of hot-spot users done by Parks Associates last year showed that the vast majority of hot-spot users are still the road warriors—mobile professionals who require connectivity to do their jobs. According to Michael Cai, a senior analyst at Parks, "More than 35 percent of Internet households are familiar with the concept [of hot spots], but only 3 percent had used hot-spot service and only 1 percent had become subscribers. Its not a mass-market service yet." If consumer demand were the only issue, it would be reasonable to ask whether McDonalds might not just pull plug on the deal if wireless connectivity fails to bring customers into the store. But Wayport is not approaching this as purely a consumer service. In delivering business applications, e-training and other business services to McDonalds employees, the unwired restaurant locations will have a staying power that a consumer-only model does not. After a lot of initial angst over what would drive acceptance of the hot-spot model, the focus now seems to be on the delivery of aggregated services. Boingo Wireless Inc., a leader in that area, built its business around aggregating services through a network of partnerships so that subscribers can wirelessly access the network from any participating providers location. Those services lately are finding their way into bundled service offerings. "We really think there is a great opportunity for major telcos, ISPs and managed service providers who have existing subscriber bases to bundle Wi-Fi with their offering," Boingo CEO Dave Hagen told me. "The only way to go," analyst Cai said, "is to bundle services and sell to companies instead of directly selling to end users." Wayports approach embraces both. So, in saying good-bye to Cometa, we say hello to a business model in the hot-spot arena that may be what the business has been waiting for. Check out eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless Center at for the latest news, reviews and analysis.

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Carol Ellison is editor of's Mobile & Wireless Topic Center. She has authored whitepapers on wireless computing (two on network security–,Securing Wi-Fi Wireless Networks with Today's Technologies, Wi-Fi Protected Access: Strong, Standards-based Interoperable Security for Today's Wi-Fi Networks, and Wi-Fi Public Access: Enabling the future with public wireless networks.

Ms. Ellison served in senior and executive editorial positions for Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media. As an executive editor at Ziff Davis Media, she launched the networking track of The IT Insider Series, a newsletter/conference/Web site offering targeted to chief information officers and corporate directors of information technology. As senior editor at CMP Media's VARBusiness, she launched the Web site, VARBusiness University, an online professional resource center for value-added resellers of information technology.

Ms. Ellison has chaired numerous industry panels and has been quoted as a networking and educational technology expert in The New York Times, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CNN Headline News, WNBC and CNN/FN, as well as local and regional Comcast and Cablevision reports. Her articles have appeared in most major hi-tech publications and numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

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