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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.

New Tanaza feature idea: dynamic bandwidth allocation for SSID

The situation

With Tanaza, WiFi network administrators can currently limit the bandwidth for their WiFi networks by controlling the bandwidth per SSID and controlling the bandwidth per client. 

These two features allow WiFi administrators to first, limit the overall bandwidth at the SSID level, and second, limit the bandwidth at the WiFi user level.

Both features aim to allocate the same amount of bandwidth per client/SSID in order to ensure the proper functioning of the WiFi network and offer high-quality services

Furthemore, Tanaza developed the Access Point Selector to help WiFi administrator determine the total amount of bandwidth he needs to provide to his WiFi users accordingly with the level of services. Consider that calculating the right amount of bandwidth is one of the most important steps when deploying a WiFi hotspot, especially for WiFi administrators working in the hospitality sector.

Use case

In the example below, the WiFi administrator limits the available bandwidth to 100 Mbps per SSID, and the bandwidth per user level to 2 Mbps.  In addition, the administrator limits the number of concurrent users to 30. As a result, the bandwidth used by WiFi users is maximum  2x30 = 60 Mbps
This means that about 40 Mbps won’t be used by WiFi users

The solution

Tanaza is thinking about developing a new feature to optimize the bandwidth limit per SSID and per client. The idea is to dynamically assign a higher bandwidth value to each connected user until they reach the maximum bandwidth value configured by the WiFi administrator for that specific SSID.

This way, when a new WiFi user accesses the SSID on the same access point, the bandwidth exceeding the limit configured (in the example: 2 Mbps) will be distributed again according to the new number of concurrent users. In the end, the overall SSID limit will be optimized, allowing WiFi users to enjoy a higher level of bandwidth when the number of concurrent users is low.

If you like the feature of the dynamic bandwidth allocation for SSID, you can upvote the idea on our Feature Lab.

Starbucks to start blocking pornography from its WiFi networks

Starbucks plans to introduce a new tool aimed at preventing customers from viewing pornography or other explicit content in its stores. This solution will begin to be introduced to the company’s US locations in 2019.

Watching pornographic content has long been banned at Starbucks locations: indeed, viewing pornography in a Starbucks store using its free public Wi-Fi network is already a violation of the company’s internet policy. Nevertheless, until now the chain has not had content blockers on its Wi-Fi service.

“We have identified a solution to prevent this content from being viewed within our stores and we will begin introducing it to our U.S. locations in 2019”, a company representative stated.

This shift has come thanks to pressure from Enough is Enough, a nonprofit, internet-safety advocacy group which created a petition calling for Starbucks to filter pornography. The petition has been signed by more than 30,000 people.

“Apparently, Starbucks cares more about providing paper straws to protect the environment than protecting kids and patrons on its public WiFi!” says the petition. “Starbucks broke its promise to filter pornography and child sex abuse images, despite its public announcement it would voluntarily provide safe WiFi in its restaurants nationwide…an announcement made more than 2 and-a-half years ago!”

Indeed, the company promised to start filtering pornographic content in 2016, when McDonald’s, which was one of the chains being pressured by Enough is Enough since 2014 to put up content filters on their public WiFi networks, started blocking pornography. This put pressure on Starbucks to do the same, but the company never followed through on that promise.

Donna Rice Hughes, CEO of Enough is Enough. claimed in a statement that Starbucks, by breaking its commitments, was “keeping the doors wide open for convicted sex offenders and others to fly under the radar from law enforcement and use free, public Wi-Fi services to access illegal child porn and hard-core pornography.”


So far, Starbucks has not disclosed technical details about the solution but said the company tested multiple tools, aiming at avoiding accidentally blocking inoffensive websites.

Web content filtering improves public hotspot WiFi security by allowing network administrators to block distasteful and illegal content, to scan and secure hotspots from hacking attacks and viruses and from liabilities due to illegal activities.

Tanaza features a built-in content filtering tool that gives WiFi hotspot providers the opportunity to create a customized list of sites to block or unblock, choosing among a large number of categories. With this tool, WiFi hotspot providers can easily manage the kind of content their users can see when browsing their network. Moreover, the Tanaza content filtering tool works with any WiFi hotspot, as Tanaza is multi-vendor and therefore supports a wide array of access points.

Do you want to discover the Tanaza Content Filtering? Start the 15-day free trial to see how you can effectively protect your Wi-Fi network with our cloud-based content filtering system.

The next steps of the WiFi4EU programme

After the cancellation of the first call, put out by the European Commission on May 15th, the tender for WiFi4EU – the initiative promoted by the European Union for the diffusion of free WiFi connection in public spaces –  officially reopened on November 7th at 13:00 CET, and closed on November 9th at 17:00 CET. Although, three more calls will be published over the next two years, about one every six months.

>> Find out more about WiFi4EU in our previous article

 

The reasons behind the first WiFi4EU call cancellation

The first call was extensively popular, but due to technical issues (a flaw that allowed some municipalities to apply before the call was opened while preventing others to do the same once the call had opened), the WiFi4EU portal was closed a few hours after.

Once the call reopened, all registrations already completed were still valid and registered municipalities were able to apply again with a click of a button. Over 13,000 municipalities registered to the call in order to become eligible for the grants.

If as a municipality, you applied during the canceled call and you want to check whether your application has been kept valid, just enter the WiFi4EU portal with your own credentials.

>>Watch our free webinar about WiFi4EU

 

Winners’ announcement and next steps

The winners will be announced approximately six weeks after the closing of the competition; subsequently, the selected municipalities will receive an email with the request to sign a grant agreement.

Update: the list of the 2,800 municipalities that won the first call has been published on the WiFi4EU portal on December 7th. A total of 42 millions in funds have been allocated for the first call.

>>Read the official announcement and see the list of winners of the first WiFi4EU call by country.

The projects are declared to be selected on a first-come-first-served basis, as each member state will have a limited amount of vouchers (around 2,500) available to give out to deploy free wireless internet access points.

Each voucher is meant to cover the equipment and installation costs (CAPEX) of the Wi-Fi hotspots, up to a maximum of 15,000 euros: if the costs exceed this amount, the difference will be paid by the beneficiary. Other costs, such as subscriptions, maintenance, and the cost for internet connection, are on the municipality itself and cannot be covered with the European Funds.

The beneficiaries of a voucher will have a year and a half to install and operate the hotspots, selecting the public spaces that will be equipped with WiFi and contracting the equipment installation to one or more suppliers. After the hotspot deployment, the municipalities must guarantee free WiFi for at least three years. The voucher assigned to a municipality must be collected by a single supplier, and cannot be split among multiple suppliers.

Municipalities will choose their suppliers of WiFi hardware and installation services from a selected list of suppliers, which is already published on the WiFi4EU portal.

Tanaza is in this list and provides its WiFi services across all the EU member countries, through its extensive network of authorized partners.

 

How to apply to the next WiFi4EU calls

Even if the first call is now closed, it will be possible for municipalities to register for the upcoming ones.
Municipalities and local institutions intending to take part in this project must register on the WiFi4EU portal to be promptly informed about the timing of the request.

The application will need to be accompanied by the «proof of approval» from the legal representative of the institution, from the copy of the act with which he was nominated and his ID card.

 

The future of WiFi4EU

After the announced calls, the second phase of the WiFi4EU scheme (due to start in 2019) will be about making remote monitoring and seamless login available across all the deployed networks. The plan is to introduce a single authentication and authorization platform that allows users to register their credentials and seamlessly roam between WiFi4EU hotspots, without having to constantly log in or to sign up to new hotspots.

Moreover, there will be a remote monitoring system that will ensure that all networks are up and running during the 3-year period; through this platform, the Commission will be also able to remotely monitor the connectivity quality of all the WiFi4EU hotspots.

Tanaza released new templates for the splash page editor

Tanaza features a splash page editor that allows WiFi professionals to configure, edit, and customise their captive portal.

The editor’s drag and drop system enables WiFi network administrators to create in a few clicks their splash page by adding a logo, a text, their preferred authentication methods, and redirection links to external landing pages, to name a few. The landing page can also be configured in multiple languages.

>> Watch our video tutorial!

In the past, many of our customers have asked for our help when building their splash page – mostly for tips and tactics on how best to engage their WiFi users. With this in mind, we recently released new templates on the splash page editor to help get them started and give them some inspiration.

In addition to this, we also recently published an article about the four rules to follow when creating a landing page.

These models show you pre-designed splash pages, mobile friendly, that you can easily modify by substituting the elements with your logo, image, text and so on.

When opening the splash page editor, click on “Create new”, and choose the template you like the most for your WiFi hotspot.
We created different models for  different sectors/markets where public WiFi is often provided, such as healthcare, entertainment venues, public transportation, education, catering trade, commercial venues and hospitality.

 

If you would like to test the Tanaza splash page editor, you can register to our 15 days free trial.

WiFi 4 and WiFi 5 are the new simplified naming protocols for wireless standards

The WiFi alliance recently announced a change in the names for the IEEE 802.11 wireless standards, the specifications composed of a set of protocols determine the technology requirements of wireless networks. Since the IEEE 802.11 generations of WiFi technology are so popular and similarly named, to avoid confusion the Wi-Fi alliance has decided to appoint simpler names.

 

Simplifying the technical names of wireless standards 

 

For anyone who has no previous WiFi knowledge and has ever tried to purchase a WiFi device, understanding the different generations of WiFi technology within the device can be a real struggle. These technical names composed of a long set of numbers followed by random letters seem nonsensical to anyone not proficient in WiFi terminology, making it difficult to decipher what the different letters are actually referring to.

 

Why is this change happening?

 

The re-brand of these alphanumeric codes will serve to help consumers make more informed decisions about the networks they are connecting to. Namely with popular wireless standards like 802.11n and 802.11ac which are some of the most commonly used, especially used when implementing home and office networks. By renaming these technologies, the WiFi Alliance is replacing these alphanumeric codes for single digit numbers that represent the ranking of each WiFi technology – i.e. WiFi 4 or WiFi 5.

 

From now on, the standard 802.11ac, will be called Wi-Fi 5 as it is the fifth version of IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi generation. Consequently, 802.11n (also sometimes known as Wireless N), will be known as Wi-Fi 4 as it is a lower version of the 802.11ac standard and the fourth version to be developed.
By shortening and simplifying these technical names, users will have a much easier time understanding the hierarchy between the different version. Indeed, the higher the version number, the higher the generation of WiFi technology – vis a vis, most upgraded, in terms of speed, signal, bandwidth.
 

 

 
Although not yet officially announced, the latest generation of Wi-Fi technology – 802.11ax – will soon be denoted WiFi 6.