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[qi:___wifi] Mobile network operators must find better — and cheaper — ways of incorporating Wi-Fi access into their data plans, according to a new study conducted by two companies with skin in the game. The study from mobile broadband gateway provider Stoke and international Wi-Fi access […]

[qi:___wifi] Mobile network operators must find better — and cheaper — ways of incorporating Wi-Fi access into their data plans, according to a new study conducted by two companies with skin in the game. The study from mobile broadband gateway provider Stoke and international Wi-Fi access provider Trustive found that more than 64 percent of the 300 business users polled said they use Wi-Fi for data roaming — apparently favoring the technology over cellular access — and 42 percent of respondents said they plan their Wi-Fi usage in advance of traveling so they know where and how they can access the Internet.

And price is largely driving their decisions about how they access the web. An overwhelming 86 percent of the 300 business users polled said price was the most important factor in selecting a Wi-Fi access provider, and 72 percent of respondents paid for their own Wi-Fi access.

Meanwhile, the survey also found nearly two-thirds of users relied on being connected, with 65 percent of respondents accessing the network when they need to download materials rather than carry their information with them. That demand — coupled with the rise in Wi-Fi usage due to the traction of WiFi-enabled phones — indicates a need for mobile operators to embrace the technology more effectively in their data plans, said Barry Hill, vice president of sales and marketing for Stoke.

“The survey demonstrates widespread dissatisfaction with mobile operators,” Hill said in a prepared statement. “On the plus side, it indicates that due to high and unpredictable data roaming charges, Wi-Fi is the wireless broadband preference for workers when traveling. Users expect operators to bundle affordable worldwide Wi-Fi access together with cellular data plans. Increasingly, they will select operators based on the mixed wireless access experience.”

But the figures also highlight the opportunities that exist in using free Wi-Fi as a marketing tool, as Stacey and Om pointed out yesterday. Business users feel they must be connected as often as possible wherever they travel, but are footing the bills themselves. If carriers can’t find ways to deliver data plans that incorporate Wi-Fi for road warriors, many ad-supported services such as those funded by sponsors like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo will try to meet that demand.

  1. I have to say that I don’t understand why it has taken so long. One wonders why Starbuck’s for example cannot provide free access for a customer. Even a code as many coffee shops provide is acceptable. Some bizarre card is less so. But, ad supported access is great. I bet that Google will be the only one to do this unobtrusively and effortlessly.

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  2. Funny how for all the crap AT&T gets, no one will sing praises for it’s WiFi service. They already have tens of thousands of wireless hotspots in the U.S. – free for iPhone and other smartphone users. And conveniently, they’re located at places one would likely find oneself at, like Starbucks and McDonalds. Definitely works well for me.

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  3. Starbucks, and other coffee shops like Peets do provide free access. It’s all in how you use your Starbucks card (though they are changing the rule) and at Peets to ask for a code with purchase.

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  4. I agree that the value of WiFi should be incorporated more into the strategy by mobile operators. There are too many vendors for WiFi service and unfortunately they do not provide universal access.

    But my bet is that it would be easier to leverage the existing cellular infrastructure and find new ways to get not just business users but more consumers for that matter to have data plans/air cards, etc. Netbooks are a step in the right direction.

    Now an ad-subsidy model might prove to be lucrative enough, but if Google offers it, the mobile operators don’t get anything – it would make more sense to see if mobile operators could get something nominal for supporting the infrastructure.

    An alternative would be Embee Mobile where we already help lots of people fund their prepaid mobile account through advertising. It’s not far off to believe adding data plans to the list of products we can offer.

    More info about our Facebook app: http://apps.facebook.com/mobilewallet?ref=23

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  5. The other day I noticed that Skype was offering me wi-fi access drawn from my Skype credit on a per minute basis, in a Nero coffee shop in London.

    That is the kind of flexibility that I need.

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  6. [...] | 0 comments | 0 tweets retweet » Devicescape is hoping to meet smartphone users’ increasing demand for Wi-Fi access by broadening support for its Easy Wi-Fi Network to include Nokia and Android-based handsets [...]

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  7. [...] If Mobile Carriers Don’t Address Demand for Wi-Fi, Ad-Supported Services Will (gigaom.com) [...]

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