July 20, 2004

WiFi becoming a utility

Last year, I posted a rambling analysis of why McDonald's WiFi plan didn't seem to make any sense (and, really, neither did my analysis, but my heart was in the right place ;-). Then I posted a follow-up where I mentioned the competitive landscape of San Francisco's WiFi cafe scene.

It seems that WiFi is becoming an infrastructural service, in that it's expected to be free, or not be available at all, like bathrooms. Jupiter just put out a report saying as much. I don't have access to the report, but here is their teaser for it, which is pretty much all I need to know:

In 2003, six percent of online consumers used public hotspots, and only one percent paid to use them. Not surprising, high-profile players in this space dropped out of the game in early 2004.

Key Questions

    To what extent has adoption of public hotspots increased since 2003?
    To what extent are consumers willing to pay for public wireless high-speed Internet access?
    What should service providers do to drive paid adoption?

This may be the fastest move that a technology has ever made from being cutting-edge to being a utility (well, OK, it's overstating that it's a utility, but it's quickly approaching that). The one place it seems to work is Starbuck's/T-Mobile, and then only for busy travelers or people who can get it paid for by their company (often the same group): I wonder if that model could work for...bathrooms? Private bathrooms all over the world, accessible to anyone with a monthly subscription. ;-)

Posted by mikek at July 20, 2004 04:47 PM | TrackBack

Well, there are these rental nap spaces. http://www.boingboing.net/2004/07/14/futuristic_sleeppods.html

The wi-fi as utility argument is clearly right. It's got to cost my local cafe less to provide free wireless for a month than it does to, say, pay their employees to keep the bathrooms clean for a month. It's probably less than the value of the baked goods that go stale and have to be thrown out in the same month, too.

Posted by: andrew at July 20, 2004 06:28 PM
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