The changing business model of a public Wi-Fi provider.

It’s great to see Wi-Fi back in the news again.

In two separately announced deals this week the UK Wi-Fi market has been turned on it’s head.  Firstly o2 have announced they are to launch their very own Wi-Fi network and hope’s to have more hotspots than BTOpenzone and The Cloud within two years.

O2 said access to the hotspots would be through a simple sign-up process and would be free to both O2 and non-O2 customers.  It remains to be seen how they plan the roll out but for a kick off, they plan to replace ‘The Cloud’ solution in their retail estate with their own giving them a launch figure of 450 locations, not to shabby.

It’s difficult to know how o2 plan to make money from the enterprise, certainly there is benefit in offering complimentary Wi-Fi to o2 mobile users, they do this already through partnership deals with BTOpenzone and The Cloud however to make it free to non o2 users will have to be underpinned by something, perhaps they plan to charge the venue for hosting the service, perhaps it will come under a marketing budget or maybe they will encourage other mobile operators to make use of their new Wi-Fi network for 3g offload directly competing with ‘The Cloud’ and ‘BTOpenzone’

In a second separate but loosely connected announcement BSkyB have announced they are purchasing ‘The Cloud’ for less than 50 million.  I would have thought that o2’s announcement was un-timely given a large amount of ‘The Clouds’ revenue comes form 3g offload and a lot of this is from o2, something o2 by the looks of it won’t be needing after 2013, The removal of 450 ‘cloud’ hotspots from o2 stores will certainly put a dent in ‘The Cloud’s’ site numbers but perhaps the deal had already gone to ink.

I should imagine that once the legal side of the BSkyB ‘Cloud’ acquisition has gone through Sky Broadband customers will start to receive complimentary Wi-Fi when they are out of the house, what BSkyB plan to do with the rest of the EU Cloud estate remains to be seen.

I always thought ‘The Cloud’ would be bought by a mobile operator much in the way AT&T purchased Wayport a couple of years to shore up their failing data network.

The Sky deal is interesting to say the least as it brings with it some conflicts.  Orange mobile customers for example can make use of ‘The Cloud’ hotspots, Orange also have a home broadband business which is direct competition to Sky.

The business model for a Wi-Fi provider is changing, it has changed.  Wi-Fi operators who are not concerning themselves with 3g offload and subscription based roaming plans are dead in the water.  Consumers aren’t demanding ‘Free Wi-Fi’ but rather to ‘Pay one price for data’ whereby you take out for example a home broadband package and it includes access to X amount of Wi-Fi hotspots, pay for a data plan on your phone and you can use it via the cell towers or in X amount of Wi-Fi hotspots.

I was reading our business plan from 2004 last night and oddly enough, the plan was then to build a Wi-Fi network that could be used as a data offload resource for mobile networks, something that is only becoming realised in the last 18 months.

o2 make an interesting point,

“Only 20% of people who have access to free public wi-fi on 02 tariffs actively use it despite the majority of devices being wi-fi enabled,” said O2’s business development director Tim Sefton

That means the growth Wi-Fi operators have seen in the last twelve months (over double the usage on our network) is only just the start of it.  Wi-Fi may have been concepted as a business in 2003 however it seems that this year we’ve finally (as an industry) taken the training wheels off and crafted some great business models for the future.



Wi-Fi in Cinema’s

I must admit it wasen’t my idea and I too rolled my eyes when it was first pitched to me.  I thought to myself, here we go another crazy idea of where Wi-Fi will work but the more I think about it the more it is beginning to make a lot of sense.

I’m not talking about Wi-Fi in the actual cinema screen here (although blokes watching rom-com’s would probably thank me for it).  I’m talking about the foyer, the place where all the ‘hanging around’ happen’s.

You could use it for

  • Checking IMDB or similar review sites
  • Booking tickets for collection to avoid the que
  • Buy snacks to be delivered to your seat through the Cinema’s own App
  • Update Facebook/Twitter/Getglue/4sq/Gowalla etc whilst waiting on your friends
  • Check out restaurant reviews for somewhere to go after the film.

All on your mobile of course, I don’t expect people to stand around with a laptop or anything.  That’s the thing, places like cinemas don’t have Wi-Fi for a reason and that reason is because mainstream devices have only switched onto Wi-Fi in the last 18-24 months and whereas before us Wi-Fi companies looked for locations with seats and tables, charging points etc, now we are just happy if there is people hanging around, even if only for a couple of minutes to pull down mail, check in on 4sq or whatever.

So, I’m going to give it a go.  If you own a cinema near Dublin, get in touch.  I’d be happy to cover the full roll out costs just to trail it.

Some sexy new Costa Coffee in store co-branding

because we are all about the pretty……

It’s wrong that NI Water boss has had to quit

Let’s have a look at the facts over the past few days.

1. The company was criticised for failing to prepare properly for disruption following December’s heavy snowfall.

2. Half-a-million litres of water had to be sent from Scotland to Belfast as supplies began to run out.

3. There were complaints from the public about a lack of information from Northern Ireland Water as 40,000 homes and businesses were without supplies at one stage.

4. Phone lines were jammed and the company website lacked up-to-date information.

5. There was more than 10 days of distribution.

OK, so it’s not looking good for NI Water but things fucked up.  What NI Water then did was scramble to fix it ASAP and ten days is not to shabby given the problems we had.  In an ideal world, this would not have happened in the first place but that’s life.  In Dublin, things are much grimmer, their water crisis has been going on 6 weeks and continues so in comparison, NI water did not to bad a job.

What they need to do now, is get their house in order and learn from their mistakes so it doesn’t happen in future and what better person to do this than Laurence MacKensie who has been this all first hand.

A company in crisis needs a good leader and a company that need’s fixed needs a leader that knows what has gone on and can get to the ‘fix’ quicker.  A new chief exec will need 3 months to settle in and get his head round what happened before he can make any changes what so ever.  3 months, that is after a 3 month recruitment process.

The Hotel Technology Briefing 2011, Dublin

Following on from the Belfast briefing, we decided to run the event again only a bit bigger and this time in Dublin.

The event is specifically for hoteliers and is a informal place to learn from the speakers and other hoteliers just what is going on with technology that effects their business, without being ‘sold’ to.

Next stop………. London (or Cork)

Isn’t our designer just fantastic ?

Know who your customer is

I had a meeting this morning in a hotel lounge as I often do and as I waited for my client I eavesdropped on the table beside me (again as I often do)

Beside me sat two gentlemen discussing where would be the best place to launch their ‘new and exciting’ cookware range. They were doing the google dance, listing down potential outlets for their gear.

Garden centres, hardware shops, cooks shops and restaurants were all jotted down but it was settled that the best places to start was the department stores and off they popped to the car to put together two samples sets to take to Debenhams in Belfast and Harvey Norman in Holywood.

What a waste of time, what a waste of money.

Had they bothered to do some more research they would know that both these stores buy centrally. Debenhams in London and HN in Dublin (with Australia pitching in too). Giving a sample set to a store manager in Belfast is a complete waste of time, if it even reaches the purchasing manager he (or she) will think they are idiots for not coming direct to HQ in the first place.

The point I am making is simple. Businesses waste too much time going after the wrong people, if these lads had have spent a little more time researching their potential customer they could have found out who the purchasing people were and set up a pitch meeting. Much more effective and a much better use of time.

It can be daunting going to big firm buyers but know this. It’s buyers jobs to……….. Er buy! But they can’t buy what they don’t know about.

Some achievements in 2010 and some points for 2011

This is the second time I have typed this post, the first one got lost in the clouds somewhere.  Isn’t technology wonderful?!

Some statistician somewhere worked out (or probably made up) that over 95% of New Years Resolutions are broken within 5 days.  To that end I rarely bother making any at all.  However last year I did make one, which was that on 1st February I would do my utmost to lose 2 stone in weight, then take it from there.  Come 1st February, I stuck to my word and over the course of 2010 I lost over 5 stone but I will write more about that in a future post.

I wanted now to take just a few moments to note some achievements in 2010;

1.  Lost over 5 stone (again more on that in a future post)

2. Impregnated my wife with our soon to be 2nd child, I know that doesn’t sound like a huge deal but sometimes these things are not as easy as you might think.

3. Didn’t buy a new car, again this may not sound like much however this is the first year since I have been 17 that I have not purchase a new car.  It marks contentment for me with what I have instead of constantly upgrading for a bigger/better model.  Plus my car is shit hot!

4. Work wise, I had a good year and secured some major coups for the company which should see us right for a few years.

5. Climbed Donard (more than once), Fat Russell would not have been able to do this.

6. Enjoyed time with Nicole (my wife) and Hannah (my first child).  They are truly wonderful people and they deserve medels for putting up with me.

7. Built upon friendships.  I have a great circle of friends of old and new from work, scouting, OpenCoffee and CMS.  They (along with my family) make me who I am.

8. Became a District Scouting Commissioner.  After years of constant moaning, someone called my bluff and put me on the board, with the help of my team, we have achieved much but there is much more to achieve.

9. Visited some wonderful cities, towns and villages across the UK and Ireland.  More than I care to count, my word allows me to stay in some wonderful places and I am happy to enough them when I am there.

10. Read more books than the rest of life combined.

11. Got a new dog, Lucy, to annoy my other dog, Jack.

I don’t want to make any New Years Resolutions in 2011, not that I am not happy with the success of 2010’s resolution but because I want to take some more time to evaluate things properly, I have however though, made some points in which a plan for 2011 with formulate from;

1.  Loose more weight, about about 1.5 stone will do nicely.

2. De-Clutter my stuff (more on this in a future post)

3. Read more (it’s good for the soul)

4. Write more (it’s also good for the soul)

5. Be more active

6. Love my family more (if it’s possible)