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Wi-Fi in today’s World: An approach from customer experience perspective to Public Wi-Fi

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Sep, 2016


In this blog, we will be discussing about public Wi-Fi use cases, where owners can allow their customers to use internet at a relatively small price.

Café Wi-Fi:

Public places like café, malls and entertainment centres are typical retail spaces where people tend to spend considerable amount of time. Businesses in these places plan and invest on amenities in order to keep the customers engaged. Over the past few years, cafés are increasingly rated based on availability of Wi-Fi and quality of Wi-Fi provided. Cafes and malls are increasingly becoming a place to work while relaxing and thinking for visitors and the Wi-Fi plays an important role in this. There are varieties of models of monetization in providing such services to the customers based on the nature of the very businesses. Below are some of them.

Free Wi-Fi:

Some cafés and malls provide free Wi-Fi to their customers (not all visitors) for a stipulated amount of time. For these service providers, Wi-Fi is a value extension to their core offering and hence do not charge their customers. In contrary, they issue vouchers to paying customers based on their bill amount. The user can enter the voucher details in the captive portal of the café / mall and start using the services. His services can be restricted to a time and speed limit based on his purchase. Once the time allotted is over, the service is halted and he has to apply new voucher to continue using the internet.

Deploying such a service is straight forward and all the Café / mall needs to have are AAA Server, Captive Portal, Voucher Management and other additional small features for billing and supporting other functions. A pre-defined voucher policy is fed into the system and as soon as the voucher details are provided in the captive portal by the customer, his mac id is bound to the voucher account and appropriate service is delivered. Once the voucher expires, his service is stopped.

Wi-Fi in today’s World: An approach from customer experience perspective to Public Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi in today’s World: An approach from customer experience perspective to Public Wi-Fi

Paid Wi-Fi:

In addition to the above mentioned model, some cafés allow their customers to use the internet for a longer period of time with a better experience but at a cost. Such cafes also function on voucher based billing model. Such networks typically have a better service than a free Wi-Fi. The rest of business model is pretty much the similar to the free Wi-Fi including the back end operations.

Hybrid Model:

This is one of the most prevalent business models of Wi-Fi at public places. Service providers allow visitors to use internet for free with lot of restriction like time limitation, limited speed, frequent disconnection, suppressing social media websites, pushing advertisements, etc. However, once the visitors choose to pay for the service, they can use the service without any restrictions. This allows visitor to use the service without any distractions for longer period of time and with a better user experience. However, in contrary to the free and paid Wi-Fi business models, a hybrid model requires a better SMP solution to manage the day to day transactions.

Once a user is in the range of the Wi-Fi, he will be able to connect to internet by providing basic information about him. Once the session starts, the SMP creates an account for him and binds the mac id to the account. After half an hour of using the internet, he is disconnected from the session and should be allowed to use the internet only if he is paying for additional usage. This however can again be done using the Voucher based authentication or other modes of authorization like captive portal based, SIM based, mobile number based, etc.

In any of the scenarios, the captive portal captures the details and sends it to the authentication server for user authentication. Once the user is authenticated and authorized, his session is initiated and accounting is initiated. Once the usage hits the threshold, the session is ended and user is disconnected from the network. This entire workflow including user onboarding, session management, user authentication and other related functions can be handled by a Wi-Fi SMP.

Arena Wi-Fi:

Some of the most interesting Wi-Fi scenario to come up in the recent times is the Arena Wi-Fi. Arenas like football stadiums allow users to access internet for a relatively small fee which entitles them to use the in stadium Wi-Fi. This Wi-Fi network allows the users to access exclusive content like replays, participate in surprise polls, view statistics, etc., in addition to sharing their experiences on the social media live from the stadium. Although the monetization is pretty straight forward, the service delivery is a challenge to a certain extent. The Wi-Fi SMP should give the arena management to be creative with the service offering which is a service differentiator from their competition and a possibility for additional revenue.

Many Remote Access Focuses are required for bigger fields, and the separation from the administration supplier purpose of nearness, head end or information storeroom surpasses the separation confinements of copper link. Fiber is required to give network to the Remote Access Focuses, which regularly don’t have fiber ports, and can require Control over Ethernet (PoE).

A full-fledged Wi-Fi SMP allows the operator to create a service to be made available to the users who have paid for it over an app or a secure link. This link / app can be activated or deactivated by the Wi-Fi SMP based on the preset business process.

Although, we have mentioned about multiple business cases in the above paragraphs, it is not necessary that they exist in disparate business scenarios. A mall might be allowing operators to offload their customers onto their network seamlessly by tying up with major operators. This allows operators to increase the ROI on the network. However, the service management platform should be able to authenticate the telecom mobile data users seamlessly while managing the customized business model of the mall.

While the Wi-Fi is an aggressive business model to leverage on as a strong additional offering, the operators / service providers need appropriate systems that will allow them to maximize the ROI on their network. With clarity on business model and a system smart enough to manage the same can really make a huge difference in the way customers experience the service.

By : Ramakrishna Mashetty

Ramakrishna Mashetty is The Chief Marketing officer of SURE! (a Magnaquest product).SURE! is an internationally acclaimed player in comprehensive end-to-end Subscription Business Solutions for PayTV, Broadband and Cloud Computing businesses – through deployment of Metered Billing, CRM, Service Fulfillment, Value-Added Services, and Managed Services.

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