A big warm welcome to the Wi-Fi 360 newsletter! I’m really excited about this new way of reaching out to a 1,500+ strong community of industry professionals that are passionate about Wi-Fi. Every week I will be filling you in on the best discussions from the Wi-Fi Offload Forum group on LinkedIn while also adding a bit of fresh spice of my own. This newsletter is all about inspiring YOU to join ME in attacking the big carrier Wi-Fi challenges. In fact, the Carrier Wi-Fi industry needs your creative brainpower right now. The challenges may be big – but I promise that the rewards will be even bigger.

The billion-dollar question

Wi-Fi handles something like three quarters of smartphone traffic in mature markets. So why is the mobile industry turning over countless billions while Carrier Wi-Fi turns over (comparatively) nearly nothing?

It really (as some people claim) has nothing to do with ‘superior service quality’ at all. I believe it has to do with age-old industry structures. More than anything the Wi-Fi industry really needs to crack the ‘monetization challenge’ – this is the only way to break down the old structures and introduce better ones. The good news is that all the pieces are there: A huge global base of devices, cheap infrastructure, and big chunks of spectrum. The mass market loves Wi-Fi and would prefer it over cellular at any time. And this is not only because it is (a lot of the time) available for free.

That said, bit-pipe connectivity prices are converging to zero in many markets. But don’t think of this is a reason for giving up trying to make money on connectivity. Steve Jobs took the music industry from free (by piracy) to one dollar a tune. I believe that Hotspot 2.0 has an important role to play in making connecting to quality Wi-Fi seamless and convenient. I also believe people are ready to pay for that. I certainly would. For more about the monetization challenge don’t miss the Wi-Fi Offload Summit coming up in Palo Alto this June 18th-19th where our theme will be precisely that:

Monetizing Carrier Wi-Fi. We will be opening for registrations shortly so watch this space.

Stop thinking connectivity – and start thinking in ‘user journeys’

My latest pet peeve is ‘user journeys’: We need to map out what users will be doing and not least experiencing on their Wi-Fi devices from entering until leaving a venue. This experience has to be nothing less than great. Meanwhile, we have to work out how to monetize it. Inexpensive, high-quality ‘bit-pipe’ connectivity is simply the important enabler of the user experience.

So this is another billion-dollar question, really. The truth is that all MNOs that I’m aware of are focusing squarely on the ‘bit-pipe museum’ business model, which is about as far away from building a meaningful user journey as can be.

User journeys are precisely where Wi-Fi has something to offer that cellular could never do. There is a lot of opportunity in this area, but we have yet to see a flagship case on how to do this with success and profits.

Personally, I’d love to work with one of the big venue owners to make this happen. I keep imagining what user journeys would be possible in a place like Walt Disney World Florida or some other theme park.

Of course, shopping centers, transport hubs, and stadiums are the obvious other choices. But all of this has to be better than just ‘good’. As Seth Godin puts it: ‘Very good’ is not good enough. Most services are already very good. To succeed and get noticed, a service has to be exceptional. I believe it is definitely possible to build exceptional user experiences on smart device with Wi-Fi as the basis.

Takeaways from the Carrier Wi-Fi Summit in Barcelona

This year the WBA’s Carrier Wi-Fi Summit was collocated with the Mobile World Congress and sadly, a lot of people (including yours truly!) were too busy to attend most of the very good speaking sessions. In retrospect I picked up on a few interesting news items:

The WBA had an impressive number of Hotspot 2.0-enbled devices on display – I would guess about twenty or thirty – representing operators from around the world.

A handful of big operators are backing Hotspot 2.0 in a big way and these include AT&T, SK telecom of Korea, Comcast, and many others. Hotspot 2.0 is not exactly making a huge impact yet, but it’s well on its way.

The right technology is here today. Now it is up to us to make the carrier Wi-Fi business happen.

For my full list of takeaways read my blog here: Click Here

So what’s the next step for Carrier Wi-Fi? In our next instalment of this series I will be looking at Passpoint 2.0 – so tune in again next week.