A new service from AT&T makes it possible for businesses to keep their customers connected to the wireless Web while keeping their own internal WiFi traffic separate and secure.
AT&T’s WiFi Small Site service is aimed at professional offices, restaurants and retail stores, and lets a business extend a free public WiFi hot spot to its customers. Businesses install the service themselves.
The Small Site service includes two network names, a public network and a private network for employees only, and lets businesses create an additional branded WiFi network for public use.
Businesses also can stay connected through a 4G/LTE connection, giving them an option to keep business data flowing in case of disruption.
The new service provides network metrics and reporting, and includes a URL filtering option that allows family-friendly Web surfing.
AT&T Small Site runs on a businesses’ existing connections. Qualifying businesses must use a circuit with a speed of at least 6 megabits per second.
The service will be offered as part of the company’s All for Less package, which lets small businesses bundle and choose their own services and applications.
With the Starter Package, businesses can change the small group WiFi network password, edit the information that appears on the public WiFi sign-on page and view the number of users on the public WiFi network.
The Standard Package provides all the capabilities of the Starter Package, plus the ability to manage public and small group WiFi network names and passwords, create a branded, customer-facing WiFi connection page, control user access with advanced URL filtering options, and view the number, device type and sign-on method of WiFi users on the public network.
AT&T is not the only company reaching out to small businesses in search of a lightweight WiFi solution. Last year, Netgear and Facebook announced a partnership to bring WiFi to the customers of small businesses through a "check in" at the business’ Facebook Page.
Upon first connecting to the router’s wireless signal, customers, guests and visitors will land directly on the company’s Facebook Page, where they will be asked to check in and have the option to like the page before they begin using the Internet.
No special codes are needed, and the customer has the option to automatically check in for free WiFi on return visits.
Offering free WiFi works better at keeping customers happy than common waiting area conveniences like candy, water or magazines, according to a recent national survey of entrepreneurs and small business IT decision-makers conducted by Bredin Research and sponsored by Comcast Business.
Nearly eight in 10 businesses offering WiFi say it helps keep customers happy while they wait, and nearly two-thirds report it has encouraged repeat business. More than half say it has brought in new customers.