Cash: How to monitise Wi-Fi


By Kenneth Fernandez, wireless and network product manager, Adtran

Wi-Fi is now the preferred method of access to the network. More and more applications are moving to the cloud. Consumers are demanding always on, anywhere, wireless internet access and they are expecting it for free. They see Wi-Fi as just another utility, like water and electricity.

This possesses a significant challenge for venue owners and service providers alike who were not that long ago able to charge for Wi-Fi internet access in public venues, and share in the revenue. Particularly for the venue owner, what was once a source of revenue has now become a cost. So what are the options for monetising Wi-Fi without a direct exchange of money?

Premium access

One of the trends we are seeing particularly in hospitality is a two tier, premium access model. A complimentary but limited service is made available to check email and perform general web browsing, then a simple upgrade to a paid service is there for more bandwidth-intensive applications, like streaming video or video conferencing.

One must tread carefully however, as if the complimentary tier is so slow or restricted as to make checking email and general web browsing painful, you will likely cause more harm than good. Also, if a person upgrades, they better be able to get the service promised and be able to stream video and video conference.

While I realize this isn’t quite monetising Wi-Fi without direct exchange of money, it is a happy medium where you could supplement some of the cost and justify the remainder with the fact that customers will come back, stay longer, and buy more. Use journeys

The user journey defines the step by step process that a Wi-Fi user walks through to attain Wi-Fi access. This might consist of a login page and a post login page or something in between.

Venues could monetise Wi-Fi by gathering data to provide relevant branding, content, ads, services and offers. Optional and mandatory fields such email address, age group and gender could be configured for data gathering or data could be obtained through social media login options such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google. Techniques such as http user agent could be used to determine device type, OS and browser.

More targeted content could be delivered by using analytics data like presence and location, proximity to surroundings, demographics, device, operating system, browser type, websites and apps and social media likes and interests. This can be combined with data from third party customer relationship management, point of sale and advertising systems through APIs to deliver even more targeted content.

Presence analytics

When a Wi-Fi-enabled device comes within range of a wireless network, it sends a message called a probe request asking for the identity of the network. While probe requests are not used by most Wi-Fi networks if the client device does not associate or connect to the network, these simple transactions from un-associated client devices could yield important information.

For example, probe requests could be analysed to determine how many people are nearby or walking by (passersby), how long the passerby hangs out (dwell), if they come inside the location (visitors), how many passerby versus visitors (capture rate), how long a visitor hangs out (engagement) and if they are new or repeat visitors (loyalty). This brings the same type of metrics that are available to websites to brick-and-mortar facilities.

Indoor location-based services

We are all familiar with GPS providing turn-by-turn directions to help us navigate from one location to another. The problem is that GPS only works outdoors or within the coverage zone of a satellite.

The solution is location-based services (LBS) provided by Wi-Fi. LBS can be used by mobile devices to provide turn-by-turn directions inside schools, hospitals, malls, hotels, casinos, convention centres, stadiums, airports, train stations, subways, and even coffee shops.

Targeted content from analytics data such as presence and location, proximity to surroundings, and demographics, could be used to influence where the user goes and to push content to them as they navigate. Further this analytics data could be combined with data from third party systems again to create more targeted content.

App and website analytics

Application and website analytics scour data around which websites people go to, which search terms they enter, which applications they use, which social media they engage in (and for how long), if they buy something, and other relevant data.

One of the many applications this area is quantifying and embracing showrooming. Application and website analytics bring wide visibility into this practice allowing you to quantify impact by analysing things like the products customers browse online, the search terms they use, and the social media they engage in, and at the same time embrace it by redirecting shopper’s mid-surf and offering price matching, faster delivery and onsite fulfilment.

Social media

Instead of people entering their email address, filling out a form, or creating an account, you could use social media login options to allow access to Wi-Fi.

Not only does this make for a great user experience for the end user by allowing them to simply login with their social media channel credentials, the venue gets something in return; not a direct exchange of money but benefits such as new likes, follows, posts, and tweets. More importantly, access to a whole wealth of information such as email address, demographics, likes, and interests, allowing the venue to deliver targeted content, ads, services and offers.

In conclusion

Gone are the times of offering Wi-Fi internet access paid for by the end user with a direct exchange of money, or providing free Wi-Fi access with the hopes the incremental loyalty will offset the lost revenue. Venue owners and service providers alike must find new and innovative ways to monetise Wi-Fi without the direct exchange of money.

Adtran is a provider of telecommunications networking equipment and internetworking products.


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