Fixed Price, then No Price WiFi


Wi-Fi Networking News has a story that points to a Bloomberg report about SBC offering $1.99 Per Month for Unlimited Wi-Fi to its DSL customers. SBC is building out its hotspots, and has partnered with Wayport and new McDonald. Glenn notices that everyone is going to fixed price, and I agree with him, that this is a good short-term strategy. I think in a few months, we will see WiFi hotspots become as a tack-on service for say T-Mobile to lure customers to its mobile network or SBC’s effort to win DSL users. I think the clock is ticking on the standalone hot-spot business: just a matter of time. Except as Glenn says: Airports still sit in the catbird seat: captive audiences may still have to pay more for usage. Actually Wall Street Journal puts it best when it says:

As for people paying $50 or so a month to be able to access the Web wherever they are — that’s a different story. With a few exceptions like T-Mobile, the business of providing wireless connectivity has been a wasteland, akin to the online pet-food companies that sprang up during the Internet bubble. The simple truth may be that outside of homes and offices, and outside of obvious white-collar tar pits like hotels and airport lounges, there really may not be much of a market for high-speed mobile Internet connectivity.


Glenn Fleishman

Interesting point about paying: until T-Mobile introduced 802.1X, there was very little difference between free and fee when you looked at reliable for-free locations. Put T-Mobile and, say, NewburyOpen.Net side by side, and what’s the difference?

But with 802.1X, T-Mobile can assign a unique encryption key to every user in their location — it essentially obviates VPN service while providing effective WLAN security. It’s not perfect, but I would now prefer their network over another. I use SSL-based email now, but even so, I think I’d rather keep all my traffic private.

The challenge is now to provide a way of creating 802.1X on the cheap–there are open-source solutions via FreeRADIUS and Open1X–so that free locations could have the same security benefit. But that requires user accounts, and that increases cost, complexity, and support.

Artem Frolov

I could not resist to comment on coffee house thing. Whether it makes sense or not to have free wifi for coffee lovers depends on how crowded coffee shop is. If it is not very popular then yes, they’d likely to see you spending $6 instead of $2. If place is hot, then they’d definitely want you to sip a cup in ..well 20 minutes and go away – that improves their time-per-cup-sold.

And, in big malls, what prevents me from using coffee house wifi spot sitting in nearby McDonalds instead?

From my point of view, wifi is going to be commodity much like wireless phones are now. Flat rate or pay-per-Mb, but paid – for sure.


I agree … i think they key here is that WiFi should be used as a lure for something else. like selling coffee. I use hotspots, because well I like coffee houses. Normally I would buy my expresso for $2 and then move on. Instead if there was free WiFI, I could sit in the coffee hourse for say two hours and sip three expressos at $2 a pop instead. i am spending $6 there instead of $2 – i think free wifi makes sense in that situation


I’ve always been of the opinion that you should never have to pay for wifi in public places. It seems like the natural order of things. Do we pay for AM/FM radio? Then again I could be spoiled (, but there’s never been anything other then free wifi for me.

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