Skip to main content

Born Free: the Wild Hotspot Business Models

WSJ reports that leaders of municipal governments in the U.S. are finally realizing that broadband access infrastructure is an integral part of their economic development strategy for the 21st century. Like railways, highways and airports -- the more capability that you offer, the better your chances are of maintaining commercial sustainability within the very competitive global networked economy.

When MobilePro Corp., a provider of wireless networks for municipalities, won a contract from the city of Sacramento, California, last year to build and operate a citywide wireless network, the firm thought it had landed its biggest deal ever.

Under the agreement, Sacramento residents would pay monthly subscription fees of about $20 to use MobilePro's wireless service, local businesses would pay $90 to $250, and Sacramento's city agencies would be able to use the service at no cost. The agreement resembled that of many other municipal wireless deals across the country. For MobilePro, based in Bethesda, Maryland, a full year of service would bring in $2 million to $4 million in revenue, analysts estimate.

But earlier this month, the deal fell apart. The reason: Sacramento city officials had noticed new municipal wireless deals inked in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. The Portland rollout, sponsored by Silicon Valley startup MetroFi Inc., and the San Francisco deployment from Google Inc. and Earthlink Inc., both offered wireless service to those cities with expanded free access for some businesses and residents.

Instead of relying on user subscription fees, MetroFi, Google and Earthlink planned to make money off local advertising that would be embedded in their wireless service.

Sacramento, California's capital, wanted to pursue an even more aggressive model: a completely free wireless service supported solely by Internet advertising. "What the city wanted was out of the question," says Jay Wright, MobilePro's chief executive officer.

The breakup between Sacramento and MobilePro presages a shake-up in the nascent municipal wireless market. While municipal wireless services are just a few years old, providers of the networks -- which often use a wireless technology dubbed Wi-Fi -- have mostly relied on subscription fees from users for revenue. Now the rise of a new municipal Wi-Fi business model dependent on Web advertising is putting the first wave of municipal wireless providers -- such as MobilePro, Tropos Networks Inc. and Strix Systems Inc. -- at risk.

I wrote about this phenomenon, back in June of 2004, in a column entitled "Born Free: Wild Hotspot Business Models" where I wondered why broadband service providers hadn't already acknowledged the emerging trend, and acted upon it. IMHO, the loss of landline phone revenue for telcos is marginal when compared to this bypass threat.

Popular posts from this blog

Industrial and Manufacturing Technology Growth

In an evolving era of rapid advancement, market demand for innovative technology in the industrial and manufacturing sectors is skyrocketing. Leaders are recognizing the immense potential of digital transformation and are driving initiatives to integrate technologies into their business operations.  These initiatives aim to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and ultimately drive growth and competitiveness in an increasingly digital business upward trajectory. The industrial and manufacturing sectors have been the backbone of the Global Networked Economy, contributing $16 trillion in value in 2021. Industrial and Manufacturing Tech Market Development   This growth represents a 20 percent increase from 2020, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of these sectors in the face of unprecedented challenges, according to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research . The five largest manufacturing verticals -- automotive, computer and electronic, primary metal, food, and machinery -

Rise of AI-Enabled Smart Traffic Management

The demand for smart traffic management systems has grown due to rising urban populations and increasing vehicle ownership. With more people and cars concentrated in cities, problems like traffic congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions are pressing issues. Since the early 2000s, government leaders have been exploring ways to leverage advances in IoT connectivity, sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics to address these transportation challenges. The concept of a Smart City emerged in the 2010s, with smart mobility and intelligent traffic management as key components.  Smart Traffic Management Market Development Concerns about continued climate change, as well as cost savings from improved traffic flow, have further motivated local government investment in these advanced systems. According to the latest worldwide market study by Juniper Research, they found that by 2028, smart traffic management investment will be up by 75 percent from a 2023 figure of

AI Software Market will Reach $251 Billion

The growth in Artificial Intelligence (AI) software could lead to many benefits. As more organizations adopt AI, they may become more efficient, productive, and able to offer improved products and services. The global job market could also expand, with demand growing for roles like AI engineers and technicians. Plus, AI apps could enable breakthroughs in fields like healthcare, transportation, and energy. The worldwide AI software market will grow from $64 billion in 2022 to nearly $251 billion in 2027 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.4 percent, according to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC). AI Software Market Development The forecast for AI-centric software includes Artificial Intelligence Platforms, AI Applications, AI System Infrastructure Software (SIS), and AI Application Development and Deployment (AD&D) software (excluding AI platforms). However, it does not include Generative AI (GenAI) platforms and applications, which IDC recent