The mega trend: Free WiFi = 3G Offload

Posted on May 25, 2010

AT&T announced yesterday that they’re creating a WiFi “hotzone” in Times Square, NY.   While there is speculation that this might be linked to the upcoming launch of the 4th gen iPhone, which is rumored to make video calls only over WiFi, I think it’s simply indicative of the mega trend towards WiFi offload and free (or bundled) access.

There’s always been a lot of free WiFi around, but now we’re seeing it being embraced strategically by the big networks, in locations where many people are concentrated.  Corporate altruism?  Perhaps.  More likely a way to push out good services, especially multi-media, to users without devastating the cellular infrastructure or requiring billions of new dollars in new investment.

It’s great to see WiFi pushing to the fore as a strategic complement to cellular.  Our recent WiFi report highlighted that users understand 3G and WiFi and want them both, together!  But, it’s clear that WiFi as a service complement will only work if it’s as reliable and easy to use as cellular, and that’s where WiFi still has a long way to go.

Here at Devicescape we’re very energized by this trend as our specialty is automating the WiFi experience.    We completely support the AT&T network so that iPhone or AT&T home broadband users, and users with free Starbucks-card WiFi accounts,  can get logged in quickly on their devices.  Even better, all the locations which don’t need accounts (like Barnes and Noble) are part of our Easy WiFi Network, so everyone gets instant connections there without doing anything.

Over the coming months we’re going to see more and more networks going free.   3G offload?  Amenity for venues?  Anti-churn?  Whatever the reason, it’s good for users!