A Maryland wireless company believes it can make Wi-Fi
hotspots profitable by giving up to 90 percent of the
revenue it makes from 802.11 Internet connections to
the hotspot venue owners and bringing lessons learned
in Asia to the unwired shores of the U.S.
Teletronics International, a Rockville, Md., designer
and developer of wireless systems, is promoting
its "EZ Hotspot" service as a low-cost, venue-friendlier
alternative to current hotspot providers.
"We could never figure out" the pricing model
for Wi-Fi hotspot leader T-Mobile, says Teletronics
CEO Dr. Dickson Fang. His company's $500 hotspot gateways
will allow unlimited monthly usage for $12.99, complete
with national roaming. Teletronics argues that is nearly
1/3 lower than competitors. T-Mobile, for instance,
charges its cellular customers $20 per month for unlimited
access at its 2300 hotspot locations at sites like Starbucks,
Kinko's and Borders Books & Music. For those not
part of T-Mobile's phone service and unwilling to sign-up
for a one-year contract, unlimited Wi-Fi access is $40
Fang says the low rate is possible using Teletronics'
National Operating Center, "a giant server-based
system" handling user authorization, authentication
and accounting back-end functions. It has a capacity
to serve up to 1,000 customers per second, according
to Fang. That system is under no threat of collapse
as there are only a handful of EZ Hotspot locations
available in the Washington DC-area. Fang says that
number should climb to 30 in around a month.
The hotspot service was launched May 21 in Taipei, Taiwan.
High profile Wi-Fi cheerleader Intel was at the news
conference, alongside McDonald's, the latest venue promoting
Intel's Centrino 802.11-based chipset for laptops. Also
making interesting Teletronics' entry into the hotspot
market is its planned revenue-sharing.
"Our hotspot strategy in the U.S. is based on an
operator-favorable revenue distribution, that an entrepreneur
with a publicly accessible space such as a restaurant,
shop, parking lot, apartment or mall can buy our gateway,"
said Fang in a prepared statement.
Venue owners using EZ Hotspots, by picking and choosing
which options they want to handle themselves, can keep
as much as 90 percent of the revenue generated by Wi-Fi
customers, says Fang.
Aside from the back-end server, provided by Teletronics,
and the hotspot location, provided by the venue operator,
EZ Hotspot members can choose their own Internet Service
Provider and may install the Wi-Fi gateway themselves,
or Teletronics can provide a turn-key system.
EZ Hotspot operators generally choose a mix of setup
options resulting in their sharing 45 to 60 percent
of the revenue, according to Fang. Between nine and
ten customers use the hotspots each day with a prepaid
$2 card worth 20 minutes of Wi-Fi access the most-popular
payment method, according to Fang.
The Teletronics CEO says in Tiawan, where 802.11 services
are growing by leaps and bounds, wireless customers
see low-cost and dependability as most important. The
U.S. Wi-Fi experience "is very different,"
Although Teletronics may appear new to U.S. customers,
its presence is felt widely in Asia. Teletronics has
its Easy-Up Hotspot system in around 800 Asian locations,
including 363 Taiwan McDonald's along with hundreds
of Internet cafes, shopping malls, colleges, airports
and hotels throughout China.
In a development also related to boosting the number
of hotspots in the U.S., Placentia, CA-based networking
vendor ZyXEL has released its ZyAIR B-4000, a combination
802.11b wireless access point, router, 4-port switch
and wireless service gateway with a $649 price tag.
The device is aimed at coffee shops, bookstores, libraries
and other public venues seeking to offer customers Wi-Fi
service with the least hassle.
"Small retailers, for example, may be able to offer
free Internet access with a minimum customer purchase,"
said Munira Brooks, vice president of sales and marketing
Features pointing to the product's ease-of-use include
Built-in printer to handle billing and account information
without costly back-end support. A gateway which can
be operated by store clerks who needn't be computer
savvy. A built-in portal launched whenever a customer
is in the vicinity. No need for customers to change
their computer's Internet settings. Authentication,
authorization and accounting all built into the gateway.
Whether from Asia or homegrown, there appears to be
new options for the mom-and-pop shop looking to easily
offer their customers wireless Internet access and customers
seeking an alternative to larger, expensive hotspot