Excilan lets the 95 percent of users who can't pay for service get a taste for free: Excilan works with hotspot operators and cell carriers to connect a phone number to a payment session. If both your carrier and the hotspot you're at have an agreement, you see a gateway page on your laptop or PDA at the thousands of hotspots in Excilan's aggregated market, you enter your telephone number, and you receive an automated call that tells you about pricing choices. Select a pricing option, and your Wi-Fi session is authenticated and you're billed.
But Sean O'Mahoney, Excilan CEO and former CEO of Canadian hotspot operator FatPort, says that their wireless ISP partners are missing 95 percent of the audience trying to use the service. That's frustrating for all concerned. In the most recent quarter, Excilan served 3,179 sessions, O'Mahoney said via email, but could have served 63,580 if deals had been in place with every user's carrier.
To reduce frustration, Excilan has implemented a very interesting market-data gathering campaign. Now, if you cell number isn't in an associated carrier, Excilan authorizes a 15-minute session for free, paying the hotspot operator for this service. After 15 minutes, you're knocked off, and can get another 15 minutes for free. After that, you're presented with the login screen to purchase time or sessions from the hotspot operator directly.
That's clever enough, right? Excilan is gathering mobile numbers of customers who want to use this service, and this can give them leverage with carriers. But O'Mahoney says they're going one step further. You can associated your mobile number in Excilan's roaming system with your credit card, and, on your next visit to an Excilan-served location, charge directly to your card.
Excilan is trying to tap into the massive cell phone audience, and this new wrinkle should provide them both with some additional short-term revenue for those who opt to continue to charge through the phone-to-credit-card link, but a fairly massive number of more satisfied customers that they can take to cell phone partners to create the billing relationships needed for direct account charging.