Curated Spot Check: Bucharest, Romania

Posted on January 26, 2014

A recent trip to Europe saw us in Bucharest for a Curated Spot Check. If you’ve seen earlier posts, you’ll know this is our way of doing an on-the-ground Wi-Fi assessment of our crowd-sourced curated Wi-Fi service. It involves field measurements, primary research, and data analysis of the Wi-Fi environment, so we can fine tune our local algorithms and better assist our operator customers in delivering the “always best connected” user experience. The bottom line in Bucharest? It’s a city surprisingly rich with amenity Wi-Fi—that’s the Wi-Fi that’s shared by venue owners and provided for customers and the public. In fact, it is easier to find and get on to Wi-Fi in Bucharest than most other European cities. Here are the highlights: Bucharest locals are high-frequency mobile data users: 30% of the population has a smartphone, a larger number than much of Eastern Europe. 80% of those device owners are heavy Internet users. Many young Romanians consider themselves to be tech-savvy, and there is a thriving resource of engineers and programmers. Bucharest venue/shop owners recognize the importance of smartphone use by their customers and make it as easy as possible to get on and get connected. Bucharest venue/shop owners are…

Black Friday 2013 – The Numbers Are In

Posted on December 9, 2013

Devicescape’s stats are in for the Black Friday and Thanksgiving week, and once again our users benefitted from high performance Wi-Fi connections in many top retail establishments while shopping for bargains. The numbers show big increases in Black Friday foot traffic at many U.S. merchants compared to normal levels. First, a quick note about the numbers: We collect all our statistics based on UTC times, so 11/29/13 in the charts (except where noted otherwise) is really 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST on Thanksgiving Day through to the same time on Black Friday. That handily groups all the traffic from the stores that started their sales events on the Thursday evening, too, but it means that the late afternoon/evening of Black Friday is rolled into Saturday’s numbers. Target Target started their sale at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, and the stores near us were all very busy. The numbers indicate a 2.5X increase in foot traffic for that day. Although, by Sunday, the levels were dropping back down to near normal for weekends, so the Black Friday phenomenon still appears to be just the one-day event and not a whole weekend phenomenon.  Charts for Apple, Macy’s, and Barnes & Noble stores…

The Amenity Wi-Fi Owner’s Dilemma: Ease of Use Versus Compliance

Posted on December 3, 2013

Two common themes about publicly available Wi-Fi circulate constantly in the press:  security (for users), and abuse (by users).  I find these issues fascinating because they position users at opposite ends of the spectrum. There’s the hapless user whose secrets are being stolen, and there’s the terrorist/ identity thief whose using free (and supposedly anonymous) network access for their own nefarious aims. Let’s take a moment to examine these topics. Security is not to be taken lightly, but in our view security of public Wi-FI has been over-dramatized as the problem. The argument goes that public Wi-Fi is insecure because of the “open” (read unecrypted) nature of the link from your phone, PC, or tablet to the W-iFi access point in the bar, hotel, or café.  The weak part of the debate is the fact that even if the link itself was “secure”  (read encrypted), then beyond the Wi-Fi access point and all through the Internet your traffic would be unencrypted and fully exposed! That has absolutely nothing to do with public Wi-Fi being open or secure. To resolve this, users need end-to-end encryption, from their device right the way through to the receiving service (i.e. their bank). In fact,…

Amenity Wi-Fi Goes Mainstream

Posted on November 6, 2013

Recently I had the chance to talk to Light Reading’s Dan Jones about the changes taking place in amenity Wi-Fi. Dan had written previously about the Facebook/Cisco collaboration to offer stores a solution for free Wi-Fi, whereby consumers “sign in” with their Facebook credentials. He’d also written an interesting article after our conversation (which you can read here), so I thought I would expand on it with our perspective on wider market dynamics. Wi-Fi is one of the most important communications enablers we’ve ever experienced. In fact, with more than half of the traffic on our smartphones and tablets being carried by Wi-Fi, it’s arguably the dominant means of service access in use today. Despite Devicescape’s passion for Wi-Fi, our belief is that the combination of cellular and Wi-Fi is the most powerful—and required—way to deliver the experiences that users demand. (Read more of our opinions in the Always Best Connected post.) Wi-Fi has moved out of our homes and offices into the public arena in a big way. Amenity Wi-Fi, which we define as the shared Wi-Fi intended for guests and customers of businesses and public spaces, is a massive force and becoming more recognized as a mega-trend. Our…

Amenity Wi-Fi in Latin America

Posted on November 5, 2013

As in other regions of the world, cellular operators across Latin America are investigating ways in which curated amenity Wi-Fi can help them better meet the capacity needs of their networks while improving their subscribers’ overall mobile data experience. And there are very good reasons for them to be doing so. Here are just a few: Smartphone adoption is increasing dramatically across the region. For 1Q13, IDC reported a 53% uptick in Latin American smartphone sales over 1Q12. (And just last week IDC forecast a record fourth quarter across the world with smartphone sales likely to hit 1 billion units by the end of the year.) With smartphones in hand, user habits are changing, and more and more people are accessing more and more online content. (Our studies comparing 3G and 4G data usage show that when users convert to next-generation networks their overall usage—both cellular and Wi-Fi—increases.) In a 2012 Cisco study of wireless users in Mexico, they determined that mobile usage for wireless subscribers will see a 23X increase between 2011 and 2016. In the same study, they found that smartphone users access the Internet for data services 40% of the time and that 80% of respondents reported…

Curated Spot Check: Paris, France

Posted on October 28, 2013

This Curated Spot Check takes us to Paris, one of the most stylish, celebrated, and influential capitals in the world. It features beauty, tradition, and lots of Parisians, business travelers, and tourists. It’s also a city with the most complex Wi-Fi environment we’ve encountered so far. Voilà. Some of our findings. Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, and FreeWiFi have a lock on most of the Wi-Fi in Paris. If you are one of their customers—as many of the locals are—you are in relatively good shape. If you’re a tourist, you are in for a disappointing experience relative to other world-class capitals. It seems that Paris is stuck in an earlier decade when Internet access was only for those with a business affiliation. For tourists, the one saving grace is the large municipal network called Paris Wi-Fi. The Ville de Paris and the Île-de-France region offer this free Internet service in more than 250 public places. (We accessed this network while shooting the above video in front of the Eiffel Tower. During the shoot, we observed lots of people taking and uploading photos via their smartphones.) As long as it’s free of congestion, tourists can connect to Paris Wi-Fi and get online….

Wi-Fi Usage Doubles with 4G LTE

Posted on September 23, 2013

While an increasing number of mobile operators deploy 4G LTE, the impact to user behavior and total data usage have been difficult to measure and thus a matter of considerable debate. The network capabilities of 4G combined with larger screen and more capable smartphones, have delivered higher speed mobile broadband, richer applications, and a more compelling user experience. As a result, 4G operators are seeing an increase in the amount of cellular data being consumed by subscribers with 4G-enabled devices. However, the Wi-Fi usage in the 4G era has been a mystery until now, since the Wi-Fi data doesn’t go over the operator network and cannot be measured unless the operator has a Wi-Fi analytics client deployed on the smartphone. At Devicescape, we recently compared wireless data usage on 4G smartphones to usage on 3G handsets across a number of 4G deployments globally. The data was compiled from tens of millions of registered Android devices, which have either been deployed by mobile operators with Devicescape’s Curator Client pre-loaded, or been installed with the DataSaver App by users. The six-month study, which measured actual data consumption on the network, ran from March to August 2013. The study consisted of 80% North…

Curated Spot Check: London, UK

Posted on September 9, 2013

Devicescape’s Curated Spot Check team recently visited London and the surrounding areas to perform an on-the-ground Wi-Fi assessment and incorporate the results into our local Curation process. As one of the world’s best cities, London leads in many areas, including Wi-Fi diversity and density.  Here are some of the highlights of what we learned: London has no shortage of Wi-Fi possibilities. Practically every Wi-Fi access model ever imagined exists—from the most complicated set-ups to the simplest and most accessible ones around.  And everything in between. There is a good chance you will find Wi-Fi in cafes, restaurants, pubs, retail shops, phone booths, cabs, fast food establishments, underground stations, outdoor plazas, shopping streets, fitness centers, grocery stores, and leading banks. A number of true Wi-Fi trendsetter/pioneers—including Barclays, Burberry, and Virgin Media—have  rolled out novel offerings in London. Barclays – With one or more branches on every major street, this institution appears more ubiquitous than Starbucks coffee shops. Recently, Barclays broke new ground in the banking industry by rolling out an amenity Wi-Fi service in each of their 1600 branches across the U.K.  Always focused on the customer experience, Barclays made the Wi-Fi access simple, easy, and open, with a simple click-through…


Curated Spot Check: Prague, Czech Republic

Posted on August 16, 2013

Devicescape’s Curated Spot Check team recently visited Prague to perform an on-the-ground Wi-Fi assessment in the Czech Republic. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become a premier tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. Not only is it one of Europe’s most beautiful cities with a preserved historic town center and splendid architecture, but it hosts a diverse set of music venues, museums, monuments, and other cultural attractions.  It also features no shortage of accessible amenity Wi-Fi. Our team assessed Wi-Fi availability, attitudes, and quality throughout the city—at large hospitality chains, and at small independent businesses.  We also spot-checked an overwhelming number of tourist attractions such as the Prague Castle, the Municipal House, and the Old Town Square, which features the 1410-installed Astronomical Clock.  Here are some of the highlights from our assessment: The Prague Wi-Fi environment is extremely dense and fragmented. The density appears to be driven by the high number of tourists that increasingly expect Wi-Fi to be simple, free, and everywhere. The fragmentation stems from the fact that each venue owner chooses their own strategy and is not necessarily driven by a large third-party Wi-Fi provider. Major international food chains such as McDonald’s,…

Wi-Fi Offload 2.0 – Always Best Connected

Posted on July 30, 2013

Over the past few years the term “Wi-Fi offload” has emerged from obscurity to become something of an industry category. In fact, as a market leader in this space, Devicescape originally used a tag-line “the Wi-Fi Offload Company” on our website and marketing materials. While it’s certainly helpful for the industry to rally around a term to help in classification, we’ve found that this offload-centricity is less accurate an indicator of what our customers truly need. With that in mind, we made a big change in the way we describe our solutions, and have moved beyond offload to new and more representative terminology. Devicescape’s mission is to help operators, and others, integrate Wi-Fi into their overall strategies to drive a set of benefits for their subscribers. These benefits are multi-layered and difficult to fit into a simple descriptor such as offload. Some operators may indeed want to focus on cost savings—by reducing congestion and traffic on their networks, or by reducing roaming expenses—and certainly our Curated Virtual Network (CVN) is a remarkably effective platform to accomplish this. But it’s clear that all operators care about offering a superior service to their subscribers, and that LTE has changed some of the…