Wayport will display Yahoo content, ads on its Wi-Fi hotspot gateway page: The Wi-Fi hotspot industry has been slightly transformed by the introduction of a variety of advertising options that enable free or reduced price service access or that increases revenue to the venue owner. In this case, Wayport operates around 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in its primary business in hotels and other venues, and will be offering the Yahoo ad/information deal to those partners. It's hard to know how significant this is because of the small size of the hotel market compared to other sorts of venues; it's too early, in general, to know whether people will trade attention for access or information for clicks.
Hospitality Wi-Fi operators have seen their growth stagnate as many mid-range chains opted to build out free service, and as the potential for bringing in service to more properties dropped as a larger percentage of hotels have added service. This isn't meant to knock Wayport, iBahn, or others. It's just a fact of the market: it's small and saturated.
A good hunk of hotel Wi-Fi (or wireline service) is offered free to guests, a trend that's about four years underway. Someone has to manage that free service, but it's seen as a much lower priority (i.e., not worth paying a premium managed services provider) when there's no cost attached, even though every study on the matter shows that guests who have problems with Internet service, even free, are much less likely to stay at the hotel or chain again. Some percentage of hotels don't have Internet access, and won't offer it for reasons of resources, attitude, or remoteness. There's a chunk that has their own IT departments or other contractors that handle a for-fee service, too.
The US Census Bureau reports that in 2002, there were about 47,000 hotels and similar accommodations in operation. You can review Wi-Fi Free Spot's listing of chains and stand-alone hotels that offer free Wi-Fi, and see that many thousands of properties are represented. There's just not much room for growth. Overseas, perhaps there's much more potential, but the costs in wiring or unwiring the last parts of a market segment are always higher. London may need competitive costs for hotel Wi-Fi, but I understand there's no paucity of access.
In Wayport's case, no segment of their market has grown significantly; they've built out their original commitment for McDonald's and somewhat beyond that for AT&T WiFi (formerly FreedomLink). They didn't disclose the breakout in today's release, but they report 12,000 locations they operate; over 8,000 of those are McDonald's, the previously stated approximately 1,000 are hotels and other disparate venues, and the remainder belong to AT&T WiFi. iBahn claims over 2,100 locations, which is more than double what they reported in late 2005. But that's probably near the top of what they'll offer except through some natural growth in the number of hotels in chains they work with, or acquisition of other firms. Their Web site notes that they offer event networking, and have handled over 3,000 meetings and conferences; that's likely their growth factor.
What Wayport, iBahn, LodgeNet, and others are likely seeing is continuous increases in use month over month at each location; some of that may be offset by aggregation agreements as heavy users move to plans like those offered by Boingo and iPass. Wayport also picked up Nintendo. Update: On Tuesday, Wayport announced Entertainment-on-Demand, its flavor of in-room "video, gaming, Internet, and interactive service" that runs over their network. In other words, a way to increase revenue without increasing the number of rooms they cover.
The hotel market used to be quite exciting, but the focus has switched to hot zones, mobile WiMax, and other larger-scale networks that business travelers will also (or instead) rely on.