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What WiFi hotspot growth means for your business

The world is quietly experiencing a “hotspot revolution.” Since 2015, the world’s total count of public WiFi hotspots has grown exponentially. A Cisco research found 64.2 million public hotspots operating at the end of 2015. And this growth is accelerating—by the end of 2022, Cisco projects 432.5 million global public hotspots.

Thanks to near-ubiquitous public WiFi, on-demand connectivity is no longer seen as a convenience or privilege. Just as you’d expect to find running water in every public bathroom you visit, you’re entitled to expect publicly accessible WiFi for your laptop or mobile device.

GM, an American automaker, includes optional WiFi data plans in many new vehicles. Comcast, an American telecom provider, is using its millions of home wireless routers to build a massive WiFi hotspot network accessible to anyone with a Comcast account. Cafes without WiFi are now virtually unheard of. Add to that the fact that potentially signing up to use a hotspot over registering for your own WiFi account in the US might be cheaper, and hotspots might just be the solution to the American internet provider problem.

Simply put, it’s impossible to ignore the incredible rate of WiFi hotspot growth and the public’s dramatically escalating standards for convenient access. Here are four potential takeaways for your business.

 

How WiFi hotspots can benefit your business

WiFi isn’t just for cafes and train stations

There was a time when WiFi was a novelty that could only be found at coffee shops and major public gathering places, such as transit hubs and city parks. But that hasn’t been the case for some time. In the past several years, WiFi has morphed from a value-added customer perk to a must-have feature for virtually any business with any sort of public space component.

Here’s a small sampling of the myriad uses for public WiFi in various economic niches:

  • Retail. In-store WiFi access points provide on-demand access for prospective customers as they browse inventory, allowing for easy price comparisons, photography, and peer consultations. Retailers with mobile pay platforms can capture more revenue with mobile “buy now” buttons that finalize sales before prospects leave the store.
  • Healthcare. Patients and their family members can spend significant amounts of time waiting for appointments and news in public spaces. WiFi in waiting rooms allows these people to stay connected during those long, often tedious periods. Likewise, patients well enough to surf the Internet (and allowed to use computing devices) appreciate on-demand access in hospital rooms and wards.
  • Hospitality. Hotels have turned the corner toward free, on-demand public WiFi in all public spaces, including lobbies, restaurants, lounges, conference areas, gyms, pools, and outdoor gathering places. For many hotels, guests and their associates represent a huge captive audience that may be receptive to branded marketing, such as ads for the hotel bar’s happy hour and room discounts for longer stays.
  • Transportation. Public WiFi is a natural fit in airports, train stations, bus depots, public plazas, and even trains and buses. Many cities have deployed public WiFi networks in underground rapid transit stations, subway cars, and other transit vehicles as well, creating new advertising bandwidth that complements existing billboard and wall ads in these places. And like hotels, airports’ gate areas boast massive captive audiences and dozens—or hundreds—of nearby businesses that could potentially market their services. Plus, airports are big places. To properly accommodate demand, airport restaurants, cafes, and lounges all need their own APs—a major opportunity for enterprising resellers willing to play in the transportation segment.
  • Education. Many university campuses are now fully covered by public WiFi networks, to the point where institutions that have yet to deploy campus-wide WiFi are viewed as laggards. Though data remains limited on this point, it’s conceivable that a lack of public WiFi could affect student enrollment decisions.
  • Sport. From youth facilities to professional arenas, sporting environments offer a rich opportunity for WiFi resellers. Fans snap pictures, share social status updates, and browse for information at incredible rates. What’s more, captive, often festive fans comprise an airport-scale audience that’s receptive to targeted marketing.

This stunning diversity of WiFi use represents a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs who resell WiFi services and maintain APs. As public WiFi migrates from “optional expense” to “overhead cost” on ever more balance sheets in ever more niches, more use cases are sure to emerge. And that promises to make it easier than ever to sell operators on the benefits of onsite hotspots.

 

Social Engagement Is Exploding

According to Hootsuite, in 2018 the 88% of Facebook users accessed the platform via mobile device, and 95% of Facebook visits were made on smartphones and tablets. Only 31.8% of visits were made on desktops or laptops. And Facebook is just one example of the clear-as-day nexus between mobile devices and social media. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and various regional social networks have become mobile forces to be reckoned with.

Much of this exploding social engagement is happening on public WiFi networks, as mobile users visit retailers’ websites, check in at cafes or restaurants, share pictures of merchandise with friends, or simply call out a venue in a social post.

As WiFi hotspot access grows, users will become increasingly accustomed to accessing social media via public WiFi—and thus for late-adopting clients to see the value of offering WiFi access to the general public. Clients can and should provide social login capabilities on their customized splash pages, allowing visitors to log into the network using their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,  or even VKontakte accounts. Every visitor who completes the social login process provides valuable demographic and contact information, opening up onsite and future marketing opportunities.

 

Demand for Premium WiFi Has Never Been Higher

Now that public WiFi is a necessity for businesses and institutions looking to remain competitive, it’s natural to assume that individual users—clients and customers—are no longer willing to pay for it. This is certainly true in fragmented markets, such as food service, where customers can easily leave an outlet that charges for WiFi and walk down the street to a competitor that does not.

But it’s not true everywhere. Captive customers, such as sports fans and air travelers, are still willing to pay for basic WiFi. More importantly, affluent customers and those who aren’t personally footing the bill for their data usage (such as business travellers with expense accounts) are willing to pay for higher tiers of WiFi service, notably in crowded environments with limited bandwidth. Hotels, convention centres, and transport nodes are particularly well-suited for tiered or premium WiFi services, which offer an additional opportunity for clients to monetize their networks and APs.

There may even be opportunity for downmarket clients: According to a Cisco white paper, Canadian coffee-and-donuts chain Tim Hortons provides faster connection speeds, an abbreviated sign-in process, and unlimited data use for customers who provided detailed demographic information at first login.

 

WiFi Roaming Offers New Data Capture Opportunities

The same Cisco white paper outlines an additional opportunity to forge new revenue streams from the ongoing hotspot revolution: WiFi roaming.

Like cellular roaming, WiFi roaming allows mobile users access to public hotspots (or home hotspots with public-facing access, such as the public-private network Comcast is currently planning) under other carriers’ purview. Many carriers now offer roaming arrangements, often on an international scale, for a fixed monthly fee. According to Cisco, “The ultimate goal is to make WiFi roaming as smooth and easy to use as the [cellular] network.”

As WiFi roaming becomes a standard component of mobile service, costs are likely to drop, enticing more mobile users to take advantage of the service and connect to out-of-network WiFi hotspots that they might previously have avoided. Every user who does so creates a new opportunity for WiFi clients to monetize their APs—particularly if they use a customized splash page with social sign-in capabilities to capture valuable data from prospective customers. Captured data from previously unreachable customers is an enticing prospect for advertisers—one that WiFi resellers would be advised to hit hard and often when describing the benefits of public WiFi to prospective clients.

 

Final Thoughts

It’s no longer debatable: The hotspot revolution is irreversible. For businesses with any sort of public space component, the situation demands an urgent, focused response. Lost time could equal lost revenue—and, perhaps, a permanent loss of market share to competitors quicker to embrace the power of public WiFi.

The good news is that the hotspot revolution creates a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs who recognize the potential of cloud-managed WiFi networks. With public WiFi no longer an optional perk for businesses that want to remain competitive, the concept nearly sells itself. All you need to make your cloud-managed WiFi business work is a clear vision and a willingness to put in the necessary work.

If you need a software to easily set up and manage your wireless networks, Tanaza offers the best-in-class cloud-based software for WiFi network and social hotspot management. Its Hotspot System allows WiFi network administrators to set up and configure a captive portal for their public hotspots, which can be easily customized with Tanaza’s splash page editor. Through the captive portal, WiFi users can authenticate using their personal credentials (such as their email or phone number) or their preferred social networking account (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn…). Businesses that provide WiFi to their clients can leverage the captive portal as an advertising tool, by inserting image or video advertisement directly on the splash page, and as a marketing tool by collecting useful WiFi user data and segmenting it for marketing purposes. By integrating Tanaza with third-party applications, businesses can use the data collected to communicate information via targeted email marketing campaigns and to interact with users with engaging content that will be seen by them during the authentication process.

 

Published by Claudia Barbarisi, written by Flynn Robinson.
Flynn is a self-employed writer and programmer, whose days generally involve a coffee shop or two with excellent, free WiFi.

How disaggregation allows you to reduce your CAPEX and OPEX

How disaggregation allows you to reduce your CAPEX and OPEX

The disaggregation concept embraces the open-source approach where WiFi solution providers can decouple their hardware choice from their software choiceThis decoupling trend has already been successful in other industries such as the computer and smartphone markets.

In the WiFi industry, disaggregation enables WiFi professionals to control their costs when deploying or upgrading a WiFi network and obtaining significant cost savings.

How disaggregation allows you to reduce your CAPEX and OPEX

At Tanaza, we fully embrace the disaggregation concept and our software allows you to choose the hardware vendor most suitable for their deployment. Our latest product, TanazaOS is a Linux-based operating system for centralized wireless network management developed based on the disaggregation concept. TanazaOS allows enterprises and service providers to reduce their CAPEX and OPEX.

Thanks to disaggregation, the business model of a WiFi solution provider using TanazaOS encourages them to:

 

Reduce WiFi hardware cost

For example, when a WiFi solution provider using TanazaOS has to decide the type of hardware for his next WiFi deployment, he will be able to choose cheaper wireless devices such as consumer/SMB devices which cost around $100/unit, unlike someone using a vendor-lock-in solution who will have to spend around $300/unit (hardware + software solution).

By using TanazaOS, a WiFi administrator enjoy the same set of professional features whatever the model of access point selected. Features include for example remote monitoring, centralised configuration, multi-site management and self-provisioning.

How disaggregation allows you to reduce your CAPEX and OPEX

Save time and money for the WiFi deployment

TanazaOS self-provisioning system enables WiFi administrators to pre-configure the access points before shipping them to their customers (offline configuration).
Once online, the wireless devices will automatically sync the configuration, allowing WiFi administrators to speed up the WiFi network deployment and to reduce on-site travels costs. Moreover, large WiFi network configurations are facilitated thanks to the network-wide configuration system.

 

Save money on WiFi infrastructure maintenance

When managing a WiFi network, the TanazaOS’ remote management feature enables WiFi administrators to reduce maintenance and troubleshooting cost: receive email alerts in case of access point disconnections, perform manual or scheduled reboots directly from the cloud, and keep an eye on your access points status thanks to the global map. This has direct impacts on maintenance budget such as no need for technicians on site, the fast configuration from a centralised platform, firmware’ scheduled upgrade, and disconnection alerts.

 

TanazaOS is conceived around the disaggregation concept, which means offering the option to select software from one vendor and run it on hardware from a different manufacturer. It is an operating system that supports WiFi solution providers who are looking for a flexible and efficient self-provisioning system that facilitates unlimitedly scalability and helps in delivering wireless networking services faster.

At Tanaza, we want to deliver a complete and cutting-edge product. With this in mind, we are constantly expanding our set of featuresFor more information about the new TanazaOS, feel free to try the interactive demo or to contact one of our Tanaza consultants.

Juniper Networks acquires Mist Systems for $405 million

Juniper Networks has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Mist Systems, a wireless LAN vendor pioneering AI-driven WLAN, for $405 million.

With this acquisition, announced on March 4th, 2019, Juniper will combine Mist’s WLAN platform with its existing wired LAN, SD-Wan and security systems to provide enterprise customers with a complete solution.

Mist Systems manages its operations via a modern cloud microservices architecture, and its technology includes machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities. In early 2018 Mist developed an AI-driven Virtual Network Assistant, Marvis, to simplify wireless operations, and provide insight into client and network behaviour. Mist has also leveraged patented virtual Bluetooth LE technology together with WiFi to deliver location-based wireless services to customers, such as proximity notifications and traffic analytics.

Mist’s acquisition will expand Juniper’s presence in the cloud-managed segment of the wireless networking market and will allow the company to offer a software-defined solution that simplifies operations, lowers operational costs and improves the user experience. Moreover, Juniper plans to leverage Mist’s AI capabilities by extending them across Juniper’s networking portfolio for software-defined architectures.

“With our planned acquisition of Mist Systems, we are not only expanding our enterprise portfolio into the wireless arena but also staking claim to AI-driven operations in the era of multi-cloud,” Juniper CEO Rami Rahim stated in a blog post. “Wireless is the most strategic place to start as we adopt AI for IT. It’s also more than just wireless. AI-driven operations must extend across the whole IT stack if it is to reach its full potential.”

The acquisition of Mist is expected to close during Juniper Networks’ second fiscal quarter, subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

Over 485,000 Ubiquiti devices exposed to DDoS attack

Ubiquiti Devices Exposed to DDOS Attack

Ubiquiti Networks is currently working on a fix for a recently discovered security issue affecting its devices. This security issue has been exploited by attackers since July 2018.

According to an internet scan conducted by US cyber-security firm Rapid7, this vulnerability affects over 485,000 devices around the world. Most of the exposed devices are located in Brazil, followed by the US, Spain and Poland.

The vulnerability is not specific to one Ubiquiti device, and is found on a wide variety of the vendor’s high-grade WISP equipment. The majority of the exposed Ubiquiti devices are NanoStation, AirGrid, LiteBeam, PowerBeam and NanoBeam products, and 17,000 of these devices have already been defaced.

Jon Hart, senior security researcher for Rapid7, states in a security alert that attackers are exploiting a “discovery service” running on port 10,001. Ubiquiti included it on its devices so that the company and internet service providers (ISPs) can use it to find them on the internet and in closed networks. This service has been exploited by attackers to carry out DDoS amplification attacks.

These attacks were first spotted by Jim Troutman, co-founder of NNENIX (Northern New England Neutral Internet Exchange). According to Troutman, attackers are sending small packets of 56 bytes to port 10,001 on Ubiquiti devices, that are reflecting and relaying the packets to a target IP address amplified to a size of 206 bytes.

The exploitation attempts are still in an initial stage but, according to Rapid7, the amplification factor – that is currently 3.67 – can go up to 30-35. Attackers could find a way to carry out DDoS attacks in excess of 1Tbps, which is described by Rapid7 as “a crippling amount of traffic to all but the most fortified infrastructure”.

At the moment this discovery protocol “does not appear to suffer from multi-packet responses”, as we read in Rapid7’s security alert. This makes exploitation extremely hard as attackers can only “reflect” small amounts of DDoS traffic.

Ubiquiti already announced that it was preparing a security patch even if, in its current form, the protocol does not seem to be particularly harmful.

“To our current knowledge, this issue cannot be used to gain control of network devices or to create a DDoS attack,” Ubiquiti Networks said. “As a temporary workaround for this issue while it is being investigated and resolved by the development team, network operators can block port 10,001 at the network perimeter,” the hardware maker added.

Even though the biggest exploitation attempts have only been discovered recently, Rapid7 said that the first attacks attempting to exploit Ubiquiti’s discovery service were detected last July, when several Ubiquiti users reported problems related to the access of SSH services on their Ubiquiti equipment.

Wi-Fi Alliance announces Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6

WiFi 6 Certified - WiFi 6 Certification program

Wi-Fi Alliance announced WIFi CERTIFIED 6 as part of their WiFi certification program. This latest industry certification program is based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard and will be coming online in Q3 2019.

 

The goal of WiFi CERTIFIED 6

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, WiFi CERTIFIED 6 will ensure that devices based on IEEE 802.11ax technology meet industry agreed standards for interoperability and security. This certification program supporting next generation WiFi is aimed at guaranteeing optimal capacity, coverage and performance required by users for activities such as streaming ultra-HD movies and mission-critical business applications.

“WiFi continues to be a predominant technology for accessing the internet, with a strong history of success” states Andrew Zignani, senior research analyst at ABI research. “WiFi CERTIFIED 6 will further escalate WiFi’s role, with more than one billion WiFi 6 chipsets expected to be shipped annually in 2022”.

 

The main benefits of WiFi 6

WiFi 6 delivers improvements and new features that enable wireless devices to operate efficiently, bringing enhanced performance to users in demanding environments that involve a large variety of device types, from IoT and smart home appliances to business running large-scale deployments.

By virtue of WiFi 6, virtual and augmented reality applications, such as healthcare monitoring systems, e-learning and telepresence will become more attainable. WiFi 6 will also provide carriers and WiFi operators with more capabilities to support next-generation connectivity services, such as location-based and bandwidth-intensive applications in public settings, such as retailers, stadiums and transportation hubs.

The main benefits of WiFi 6 include higher data rates, increased performance in congested environments, improved power efficiency and battery life for the devices and increased network capacity with lower latency.

 

WiFi 6 certification requirements

The latest certification program will ensure that devices are WiFi 6 compatible and support specific features. Wi-Fi Alliance expects manufacturers who already released routers and other wireless devices with WiFi 6 compatibility to certify those devices once the program launches. WiFi 6 certified devices are required to deliver good performance even in dense environments with many devices connected simultaneously.

WiFi 6 includes a variety of technologies, and the support of some of them is mandatory for WiFi 6 devices to be certified: for example, devices must support WPA3 encryption, as well as specific features, such as OFDMA, MU-MIMO and Target Wake Time (TWT).

We expect to see a great number of WiFi CERTIFIED 6 devices being released starting mid-2019. During the CES 2019 event, many manufacturers showcased various WiFi 6 devices, including wireless routers, mesh networking solutions and computers.

Open Mesh acquired by Datto: what’s next for Open Mesh customers?

Open Mesh acquired by Datto

At the beginning of 2017, Datto announced its acquisition of Open Mesh. In this article, we will find out what is going to change for Open Mesh customers after this acquisition from Datto.

About Open Mesh and Datto

Open Mesh Inc., one of the most popular makers of wireless networking devices in the SMB segment, has been acquired by Datto, a data protection vendor that sells its products exclusively through managed service providers. With this acquisition, Datto wants to broaden its offering in the networking sector with the launch of a new line of SMB-focused networking solutions.

The new Datto Networking line of products for small-to-medium sized businesses has incorporated both the Open Mesh wireless access points and Ethernet switching technologies and the existing Datto Networking Appliance and will be delivered exclusively through Datto’s global network of Managed Service Provider partners.

 

What will change for existing Open Mesh customers?

As of January 1st, 2019, customers can still purchase Open Mesh hardware through selected distributors and online resellers, with no recurring fees. However,  the availability of Open Mesh products is only limited to the remaining inventory.

All of the existing Open Mesh hardware has an end-of-life date of 3 years from the end-of-sale date. As for the most recent products, the end-of-life date is December 31, 2021. After that date, no more fixes and security updates will be released for Open Mesh products, and support will be no longer provided.

In the course of this acquisition, Datto Networking has adopted a pricing model which aligns to how MSPs sell their products and requires all new customers to pay a monthly recurring fee, unlike the one-time fee originally set by Open Mesh, which also included a free CloudTrax lifetime license.

Consequently, after the end-of-life date of their purchased products, all current Open Mesh customers are either being forced to upgrade to Datto Networking products and pay the related monthly fees or to switch to an alternative hardware solution. Both of these options represent significant additional costs that ultimately lead to a hardware CAPEX increase.

 

TanazaOS as the alternative to Datto Networking and CloudTrax

Tanaza wants to help Open Mesh customers to continue using their hardware by making its latest product, TanazaOS, fully compatible with Open Mesh devices. TanazaOS will support Open Mesh access points as well as other hardware vendors, freeing WiFi service providers from vendors’ lock-in.

TanazaOS is a Linux-based Operating System for centralized network management. It was developed based on the disaggregation concept which embraces the open-source approach, where WiFi solution providers have the possibility to decouple their hardware choice from their software choice.

Furthermore, TanazaOS is flexible and unlimitedly scalable, and helps in delivering wireless networking faster.

Enterprises and service provider customers reduce complexities and get complete interoperability at a fraction of the cost of other WiFi solutions.

Open Mesh customers switching to TanazaOS from CloudTrax or Datto Networking will leverage from competitive lifetime license pricing, allowing them to dramatically save on their deployment costs, while also benefiting from a secure, reliable and always up-to-date operating system for WiFi cloud management.

By switching to TanazaOS, Open Mesh customers will be able to:

  • Enjoy a full set of professional features for WiFi management and control
  • Avoid Datto’s monthly fees
  • Easily migrate from CloudTrax/Datto Networking to TanazaOS thanks to the self-provisioning system and the cloud configuration
  • Save money when upgrading their hardware infrastructure as TanazaOS runs on many hardware vendors
  • Have access to learning materials and online support for troubleshooting
  • Benefit from additional features, as TanazaOS is constantly evolving, adding new capabilities such a Hotspot System.

If you are an Open Mesh user and want to know more about TanazaOS and its features, you can try the interactive demo to experience our cloud-based operating system to manage your Open-Mesh access points.