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Rafe Needleman says T-Mobile turns up heat on smaller hot spot providers: I agree with part of his sentiment, in that T-Mobile's more confident entry and commitment into the field signals the first real U.S. test of whether enough revenue and cross-selling can be extracted from Wi-Fi hot spots. As I've said before, T-Mobile, as the number six U.S. cell carrier, has a lot to gain by picking up cell customers at Starbucks, and can probably realize substantially more revenue off those signups than it can in the next 12 months from hot spot revenue.
Rafe argues that T-Mobile's upsurge in locations may threaten smaller hot spot operators, like Surf and Sip. I disagree with this slightly, only because I consider T-Mobile's deployment to still be extremely tiny. I would lump the current and future Starbucks network with the dozens of other smaller networks. Yes, it's a bigger footprint, but T-Mobile doesn't have many airports, it doesn't have partnerships for roaming, and it doesn't offer enough ubuiqity to matter. It's very clear that the main market for the Starbucks service is going to be people who pay $30 a month for unlimited region-based access. People who roam around town are more likely to be good customers than people who roam around the country unless they are on a very specific set of routes that takes them to T-Mobile-enabled cities.
More likely, the T-Mobile announcement lifts all boats, as it gives entrepreneurs the kind of hard evidence that allows them to hit up investors for more capital for expansion. When you can walk into a meeting and use the installed outlets of Starbucks and the projections of Boingo, Go America, and others, then you can explain how it costs T-Mobile $3,000 to $5,000 per Starbucks to install their service and $1,000 to $3,000 a month for T-1 service and other support.
You then turn the tables and explain your entrepreneurial vision is sleeker, requiring just $500 or $600 per outlet, which you make the outlet pay most of, and $200 per month for support and bandwidth, which, again the outlet pays most of. Because you can partner more cheaply with venues that don't offer branding and national advertising (see Starbucks's ad in today's New York Times), and you can set up to broadcast your service a little more indiscriminately, so that nearby Starbucks, other cafes, and other public places can get access, you sweep the net a bit wider for potential users with substantially lower cost of acquisition. Investors find that kind of math attractive, even as companies continue to disappear: the ones that are left behind spent most of their money on paying for infrastructure; the ones that last will have their partners pay for most or all of it. (hereUare and WiFi Metro gave themselves two weeks starting July 22: are they still operating? Their sites are.)
On the missing in action front for larger deployments, I'd like to know what happened with British Telecom's plans to have 400 hot spots this year and 4,000 within a few years (April), the two South Korean telcos combined 25,000 hot spots this year, Go American's announcement at CTIA a few months ago about 1,200 hot spots, and Boingo's Sky Dayton's prediction of 5,000 hot spots in Boingo's partner network by year's end. How much of this has materialized? Sparse information on the various sites and no major milestone announcement, as far as I can tell. [Original link via Kevin Werbach's Werblog]
MIA update: A colleague wrote in with BT's info. They have a page with their coverage area, which is pretty skimpy. The restated goals are 70 hot spots by end of 2002; 400 by June 2003.
Free the D.C. Wireless 11 (Mbps)!: In Washington, D.C., the CyberStop Cafe lit up a free high-speed Wi-Fi network throughout its two floors and outdoor patio. Here's where to find them, about a mile from the Mall. [Via CyberStop's Paul Scutt – thanks for letting us know!]
Reporter listens to single account, writes story: I hate to critique the poor daily reporter whose specialty is not technology who, when faced with a good story and corroboration from various sources, writes something that's totally uninformed, but it's impossible for him or her to know. Nonetheless, this piece conflates many trends, mostly innocuous, into rampaging, wardriving, warchalking crackers, roaming the streets! Its final paragraphs are certainly right on: nobody with anything to hide, from credit card numbers to corporate data, should expose more information than needed. Via Cory Doctorow, who tears the reporter a new Wi-Fi antenna port.
New Zealand firm claims RoamAD offers non-line-of-sight, mesh-like service: The claims in this press release seem a bit broad for what is currently known about 802.11b and similar networks, but they have a test network up and running. In essence, they've achieved part of the holy grail, if it checks out, which is creating seamless areas of network access without installing thousands and thousands of access points. Note that in the article, the committed data rate is up to 330 kbps.