We covered Public Access WiFi since 2003 and published our last report in 2007. Since our last report there have been many changes including transformed business models. Below is a “look-back” at our views in 2007. How close were our predictions?
Public Access WiFi in 2007: The subscription model of public access is dead or dying…. The new WLAN Public Access paradigm is here. During the past four years of our coverage of public access Wi-Fi, a vast majority of our predications have come true. Companies have gone under, technologies have evolved, and the rush and public onslaught to embrace and pay for Wi-Fi access has not happened, at least not in a meaningful and profitable way. Mobile phone operators can and do now offer HSDPPA/EVDO networks whose access rates are quite adequate for the average needs of the business user, and those access speeds will only get better in the upcoming months. This in effect has the ability to disrupt the Public Access model that some businesses staked everything on. Those who developed and evolved EVDO and HSDPA have deep pockets and a rich history of innovation while WLAN is still far behind with even chips and battery life being an issue that needs to be resolved which the mobile world resolved years ago. Is WLAN so far behind that mobile will conceptually overtake it soon? We believe so. What is still missing for the so called “4G” world is content, on any type of access method, whether it’s WLAN or cellular.
Wi-Fi will become the domain of municipal, state and federal government and will also become an important glue in the world of increasingly all IP networks. In this iteration it will be of tremendous value as it will allow the unleashing and un-tethering of content from access. What is evolving in the U.S. is a new day for public access in the form of municipal Wi-Fi. This access will truly revolutionize the way we as a society access the Internet, give access to all who want it, and it will be the beginning of using WLAN as a filler for an increasingly all IP network. The road of this evolution is paved with many issues that need to be resolved. Who will pay for it, advertising? Who will use it? The public at large but also these networks will give the government what they’ve wanted for years, a location based technology that is precise enough, and this will spur debates on privacy in the years to come. The U.S. government on both a national and local level will become the champions of Wi-Fi access, much to the dismay of companies that have worked hard to find a business case for hotspots.