16 December, 2004

Where's the money -The Hindu Business Line
Wi-Fi lets you surf the Net from poolside or coffee shop. Its hotspots are mushrooming, like dotcoms, but with no clear revenue model. A look at the economics of technology.

Early adopters of hotspots, the coffee chain giant Starbucks and McDonalds don't charge their customers for accessing the Net. These companies offer Wi-Fi as a means to enhance the customer experience of visiting their outlets, though they are not sure whether having a hotspot is attracting more customers.

A survey has found that though the growth in hotspot numbers in the world has been beyond analysts' expectations - there were about 40,000 in 2003 as compared to a few hundreds in 2000 - the number of users was not very high. Another report said though about 70% of online consumers were aware of Wi-Fi availability, only 15% actually used it, and just 1% paid for the service directly. Such small numbers have already made many wonder whether hotspots are going the dotcom way: mushrooming all over, but no clear revenue model in sight.

Different combinations are now being worked out the in the US to address the issue of Wi-Fi economics. For instance, some service providers are clubbing their cellular, GPS and hotspot offerings. Also, service providers are joining hands with each other to offer roaming Wi-Fi services.

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