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Local Advertiser Supported Wi-Fi Hotspot Opportunity


eMarketer reports that mobile data traffic has grown because of the popularity of smartphones and unlimited-use mobile data plans for netbooks, laptops and other devices.

Coda Research predicted in March 2010 that data traffic from mobile handsets in the U.S. will surge to 327 petabytes per month in 2015, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 117 percent.

And ABI Research reported in May that smartphones and connected computing devices would contribute 87 percent of all mobile network data traffic in the U.S. market.

The mobile service provider response was tiered pricing plans. As an example, after years of offering unlimited data at a fixed price, AT&T introduced tiered pricing for new customers.

Rather than risk losing subscribers that are resisting the change, Wi-Fi access is now being offered to remove some of the unwanted traffic from mobile networks.

An April 2010 survey from Kineto Wireless found that 78 percent of U.S. smartphone users were interested in using Wi-Fi. Currently, 70 percent of smartphone owners surveyed had Wi-Fi capabilities, and more than 90 percent of that group used Wi-Fi at least weekly. Nearly half took advantage of Wi-Fi networks every day.

The top reason for turning to Wi-Fi was ease in accessing the Web, thereby enhancing the user experience, followed by Wi-Fi superior speed -- when compared to the carrier's cellular network.

However, there were some drawbacks to Wi-Fi usage as well. The main one being a drain on smartphone battery life.

AT&T customers were least likely to complain about battery life, but most likely to say the problem was the lack of hotspots -- AT&T Wi-Fi is available in a limited number of locations.

eMarketer believes that higher usage of Wi-Fi could be a boon for marketers, who are beginning to get into bandwidth-intensive activities like mobile video. App usage will also benefit from the high-speed at Wi-Fi access points.

Subscribers who access the Internet at wireless hotspots are heavy smartphone app users. They are willing to give location targeting information and view the local ads that support these hotspots.

I actually suggested ad-supported carrier Wi-Fi hotspots back in 2004. But, the complementary Yellow Pages marketing opportunity is no longer an option, since most service providers divested those business units.

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