3rd Wave, a provider of outsourced IT services for small- to medium-sized businesses in Atlanta, is building Wi-Fi networks without charge for venues around town as a way to drum up awareness of the company: So far, it has built hotspots in 12 venues and expects to have a total of 20 unwired by the end of next week. 3rd Wave doesn't charge for setup or ongoing maintenance and its only requirement is that the venues in turn offer the connection to customers free of charge.
3rd Wave listened to its workers who suggested that a coffee shop across the street from its offices set up a Wi-Fi network so they could work from the shop. When the store, part of a national chain, began offering Wi-Fi, it came with a fee that was too high for 3rd Wave workers' tastes.
"So we sat down and thought, 'what if we wired up places like that?'" said Mike Landman, president of 3rd Wave. The company initially approached a few venues in town and started setting up networks, but since the word has gotten out, owners of coffee shops, bookstores, and restaurants are now coming to 3rd Wave asking for the free setup. Shops that offer the connection also set out table tents (self-standing flyers) that mention 3rd Wave. The gateway signup page that users see when they fire up their computers' browser for the first time on the network displays a 3rd Wave logo and a description of the company.
3rd Wave has a few requirements for which venues it will build the networks for. "They have to be retail with business traffic, so if you're in the sticks or only cater to 15 year olds we wouldn't offer it," Landman said. Some shops that have been denied have offered to pay 3rd Wave for the setup and ongoing maintenance. "So we're entertaining that idea," he said.
Landman particularly targets venues nearby his offices. "We want to keep where we set them up close to where we are to build a sense of community," he said.
3rd Wave uses access points (APs) and software from Sputnik. That software lets 3rd Wave remotely reboot the AP and remotely determine what may be causing a problem. Landman credits the quality of the APs for the fact that his workers spend just 30 minutes setting up each network.
3rd Wave has committed to buying 50 APs from Sputnik by June, at which time 3rd Wave will evaluate the program. It doesn't have any hard metrics that it hopes to reach by then but will assess whether the initiative is bringing in business. So far it is--the fourth person to log onto the first hotspot became a customer.