A substantial source of annoyance is having to pay for something that, frankly, you shouldn’t have to: water, for example. Why, when two thirds of the planet is covered in it, should I have to pay for bottled H20? Without water we would die, so we should not be expected to pay for it. After all, we do not have to pay for air.
Well, it turns out that we do have to pay for air. At least, that is what some of the UK’s mobile phone operators believe, as they are now looking to Wi-Fi hotspots as an extra revenue stream. I was astonished to learn that the much-publicised deal with Starbucks and T-Mobile offering Wi-Fi access in coffee shops would be a charged service. After all, the 2.4GHz spectrum that Wi-Fi runs over is a licence-free band of the airwaves.
Service providers had no initial outlay to make with Wi-Fi offerings. The fact that mobile phone operators made a massive error in business judgement by agreeing to pay £22.5bn between them for 3G services, does not mean that every other wireless access service should cost the consumer an arm and a leg as well.
So I was pleased to read that Google is entering into a joint venture with US-based internet service provider Earthlink, to equip the entire city of San Francisco with free wireless internet access. The idea is that they will cover a 46.7 square mile area of the city with wireless broadband. Dwellers will then have the choice of either using a free Google service to log on wirelessly (at near broadband speeds, but requiring the use of a Google account), or to pay $20 a month for access through Earthlink at greater speeds. To make the free service pay, advertisers will stump up for the right to have their logos beamed to consumers.
Access alone is not enough to charge consumers. Service providers should look to content providers for their revenues. You would not expect to pay to get into your local shopping centre; the shops themselves pay for the right to be there. This model should be mirrored on the internet.
Thankfully, it seems this may not be far away. First, the City of London has entered into an agreement with a service provider, The Cloud, to cover the entire Square Mile with wireless internet access. While this will not be free, how long service providers can expect to charge consumers a premium to access the internet is questionable.
Second, Carphone Warehouse is offering unlimited local and national calls, as well as unlimited calls to 28 countries and a broadband connection for just £20.99 per month. Some service providers charge £20 for broadband access alone.
And finally, last year BT invested £10bn in its 21st Century Network (21CN) – a service that will initially be rolled out in Cardiff later this year, then nationwide by the end of the decade. 21CN is a new generation backbone network that will allow far more feature-rich content to be provided over the internet.
One should be careful not to underestimate the impact these changes will have on the UK’s e-economy. If firms are not currently investing in their online strategies or investigating how this second internet boom could affect their business, then they had better have a good reason why not.
Chief exec Jens Montanana claims Logicalis performed well despite 'currency headwinds'
All the photos from last night's event, which saw over 600 people congregate at the Hilton London Bankside
Five year deal with Essex NHS Trust will cover 400 sites, including hospitals, clinics and GP practices
18 individuals and three companies walked away as winners at CRN's inaugural Women in Channel Awards last night