Any business where people congregate or spend time
away from their home or office could benefit by offering Wi-Fi Wireless
High Speed Internet Access. Examples - hotel, convention center, cafe,
coffee shop, bookstore, restaurant, brew pub, laundromat, bed &
breakfast, auto service waiting area, truck stops, RV parks, etc. Many
people who own a laptop computer of other Wireless Internet enabled
device will appreciate being able to stay "connected" while at these
It's quite easy for any business considering
offering access to assess the potential use of a Wireless Internet
connection by their customers - just ask them. A little market research
survey that asks if they own a wireless enabled laptop computer or
other capable device and if they'd use the access if it were available
will help determine if it's a good idea for that location.
While there are many locations that offer fee
based access we suggest a better alternative - Build a
Wi-Fi-FreeSpot™! and give your customers FREE Wi-Fi access.
Just take a look at the listings in the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot
Directory and you'll see many business owners who
have chosen to offer FREE Wi-Fi access.
Building your own Wi-Fi-FreeSpot is easy and
affordable. Basically, all you need is a broadband high speed internet
connection (cable, satellite or DSL), a router/access point/gateway
device (the hardware device that broadcasts the connection via radio
waves to wireless enabled devices) and access to a computer (for
configuring the broadcast device). Alternatively, there are several
software products that can convert a computer into a router, access
point or gateway.
Some broadcast devices allow for the cable
broadband to be plugged directly into the back of the device. Others
will require that a modem be used. In this case, the broadcast signal
cable plugs into the modem and an ethernet cable connects the modem to
the broadcast device. Tell your broadband high speed internet signal
provider you are setting up a wireless network and they will assist you
in choosing the right hardware.
Many business contracts for cable, satellite or
DSL do not prohibit sharing the connection but it is very
important to read your selected provider's end user license agreements
(EULA) before committing to sharing your broadband connection with your
customers for free. If they don't allow it look for one who will.
What will it cost?
A simple WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) for a
coffee shop or similar establishment needs a broadband high speed
internet connection and a router/access point/gateway broadcast device.
This will enable multiple users within 100-300 feet or so of the
broadcast device to share the broadband connection.
A business class cable, satellite or DSL broadband
connection costs approximately $60 a month.
Broadcast devices (802.11g are the most popular)
cost anywhere from $40 - $100.
Visit our What
Products Do I Need? page for a list of
manufacturers who offer Wi-Fi products and network services.
To configure your broadcast device you'll also
need a computer. Check the specs on the model you choose. Some can only
be configured on a PC. If you have a Mac you'll need to choose a model
that can be configured on a Mac.
You can use your existing business computer (you
will need to install a Wireless or Ethernet adapter if you don't
already have one) or you can purchase one or bring in a laptop just for
In summation, basic set-up hardware costs can be
as little as $40 and monthly broadband connection costs will be around
Is it easy to set up?
Yes. Instructions and support will be provided by
the broadband connection provider and the router/access point/gateway
manufacturer you choose (or the software provider if you choose that
configuration). The most important step is the placement of the
broadcast device to make sure it reaches as much of your location as
possible (interior walls and construction materials in the building can
effect signal strength). Try walking around with a laptop to assess the
signal strength in different areas and adjust the device's placement
accordingly. If doing it yourself sounds too difficult you
should look for a "computer networking" expert in your area or contact
a hotspot management provider you find on the vendors page.
Read these Interesting FAQS
for more info.
Boston's newburyopen.net is
building a network of hotspots in the Newbury Street area that share a
T1 connection and offer free access. You can read their white paper
(.pdf file - Adobe Acrobat Reader Required) for more information on how
you and your business neighbors can build a similar network here.
What do my customers need to access my
Millions of people already own laptops and PDAs.
In order to connect at your Wi-Fi-FreeSpot they'll need a Wireless
adapter card for that device. Cards come pre-installed with many of the
newest models or they can be purchase for about $50-90.
Why should I give it away for Free?
Are you looking for a way to distinguish your
business from your competitors? Do you want new customers? Do you want
to increase sales? One way for commercial businesses to distinguish
themselves in competitive marketplaces is by providing free public
Wi-Fi access for their customers.
"It is possible, though, that free WiFi
service could be leveraged as a competitive advantage by hotels and
retail establishments as a way to generate more revenues from the core
businesses. But there is little doubt that the cost of WiFi hardware is
falling and installation is simple at many locations. After all, how
many people have installed their own cellular networks at home?! For
businesses, the cost of WiFi hardware will not be a consideration."
- Alan Reiter president of Wireless Internet & Mobile
Computing, a Chevy Chase, Md. consulting firm. Alan has been analyzing
wireless for 24 years and the quote is from Reiter's Wireless Data Web
Log - January 2003
"Meanwhile, those who run paid hotspots
say that people will pay for their services because of the "quality".
Of course, it won't take people very long to figure out the quality is
about the same in most places. I still think that the establishments
(restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, whatever) that offer for fee
hotspots are missing the point. Offering free WiFi is likely to bring
in more customers who will buy whatever products they're actually
selling. They should focus on what their business is, and not worry
about becoming an ISP. The free WiFi acts as a promotional item.
Paid-for WiFi becomes another product on their menu - which takes them
out of their area of expertise." Mike Masnick - Tech Dirt
Wireless News - February 2003
"If you own a small coffee shop, you
might be better off giving away the Wi-Fi service in the hopes of
selling more drinks and snacks." - Lee Barken, Mobile
Business Advisor Magazine - October 2002
"WLAN hotspots should be considered as
marketing tools rather than profit centers" - Tammy Parker,
analyst for the ARC Group of London, England and author of their recent
report on "hotspots" - July 2002.
Stick to the core competence of your business and
offer free Wi-Fi access as an amenity that acts as a promotional tool
that will help bring in more customers and please the ones you already
Here's another reason for opting to be a
Wi-Fi-FreeSpot - members of Boingo or any of the other hotspot
aggregator networks who sell subscription based access are restricted
to using hotspots in their network or a network with a roaming
agreement. If they can't find one nearby when they need access they are
out of luck. Members of any network can use a Wi-Fi-FreeSpot and become
Yes, we advocate offering Free wireless internet
access, but, as explained above, there are costs involved in setting up
You may choose to absorb the cost of setting up a
Wi-Fi-FreeSpot in expectation of increased profits but there is an
alternative way of recouping the start-up costs and covering the
monthly costs.... offer local advertisement and/or sponsorship space.
If you can send customers to a customized "welcome" sign-in screen
before they surf the web or check e-mail they could see a message from
your advertisers/sponsors and your own promotion messages.
Also, you can put up signage thanking your
sponsors on the walls/windows of your business and you can offer
advertising space on a printed log on instruction sheet you might
provide to new customers..
"Free Wi-Fi access is brought to you by
Your customers are a good market for other
retailers in your neigborhood. Advertising on a "welcome" screen offers
a unique opportunity for neighborhood businesses to present ads that
are timely and location targeted. Picture a FreeSpot customer viewing
an ad for a special event or sale that is taking place nearby and right
now. The ability to create an immediate response from a highly targeted
audience is the dream of every advertiser. The fact that a FreeSpot
owner can make the ad space available at a very affordable cost is also
a very big plus. You can visit the Vendors
page for more Captive portal/Welcome Screen info.
Sputnik's SputnikNet Express
offers a great package deal that will enable businesses to create
custom welcome pages that include maps, search, and links to local
content such as movie listings and weather, provided by Google or
- a public hotspot system harnessing the power of social media (UK based)
There is another benefit to forming relationships
with other retailers. Ask them to spread the word about you. They can
have signage that says "We support the Free Wi-Fi access at
Free minutes of access in exchange for each
purchase is another alternative to consider.
Whether you choose to absorb all the costs of free
access, underwrite the costs with advertising support or offer free
access in exchange for purchases we think opening a Wi-Fi FreeSpot that
offers free public access will benefit your business and your
the Free Wi-Fi News Weblog for updates to the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory
and other Wi-Fi news.