Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Lattelekom working on WiFi roaming

Lattelekom managing director Nils Melngailis remarks about WiFi roaming at Heathrow Airport reported earlier in this blog are part of an overall roaming strategy the company will be unveiling in coming weeks.
Starting on October 1, Lattelekom will offer WiFi roaming in Germany, Finland and Portugal, and starting in November in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Spain, France and Lichtenstein. More European countries will be added in December, including Great Britain (hence Heathrow).
Lattelekom will be launching a new product for the roaming market, most likely a prepaid card of the kind already sold in Latvia and giving access to some 70 + domestic sites with the Lattelekom WiFi logo, including Statoil filling stations. (Just the place to open your laptop and surf while you fill your tank, radio waves, sparks? I never quite got that one :) ).
T-Systems, the Deutsche Telekom subsidiary is the only roaming partner that has been named, but a not-so-wild guess is that TeliaSonera with their "Go" program, and British Telecom (BT) may be involved.
Selling pre-paid roaming cards is generally a good idea for the customer, says Mikrotikls director John Tully, who deals with WiFi providers and WISPs around the world. But he also pointed out that there are two competing business models: the paid service and the amenity/magnet. The latter means that you install free WiFi at your coffee shop, restaurant, hotel, airport waiting room, etc. in order to draw more customers. Free WiFi is more of a trend in the US, especially after the FCC ruled that you cannot restrict the building of WiFi sites (so your coffee shop can offer free access in the same airport where T-Mobile might be charging 9.99 an hour/pick your currency as long as it is not any of the Scandinavian krona).
The advantage of prepaid is that you have a known network awaiting you when you travel and you don't have to search the web for free WiFi sites that may or may not be updated (i.e. webmaster "Zeke" was having second year university exams and didn't update the site for two weeks). The disadavantage is going to Milwaukee (if Lattelekom ever roams there) and seeing your business rival surfing for free at the local coffee joint while you burn lats... But yet another advantage is that there may be some QoS guarantees with reliable partners. We shall see.
It looks like this story is going to be buried in a certain medium that I am familiar with :), so I am publishing this so-far exclusive information here. You saw it first on this site :)!


Anonymous said...

If installing WiFi in Statoil is a marketing thingy, I don't get it. Or was there some research that led them to think a gas station is a common place where people would like to access the Internet?

Think about it, you surely want to spend as little time as possible in the gas station, you are in a hurry and you are nervous. It's not like Statiol is a place to leisure and surf, write e-mail and communicate. The re-fuelling process just doesn't take that much time either. What's next - making WiFi accessible in pharmacy stores in order to attract customers? What's the deal? You either want it EVERYWHERE or in spots where people would REALLY be interested in using it. Coffe joints, for one.

On the subject, pre-paid WiFi access cards all over Europe is the way to go.

Juris Kaža said...

Hi mxz and thanks for your comment.
The Statoil thing has got to be one of the strangest that Lattelekom has done. Picture it (if you know what a Statoil station looks like inside).. you pull up, fill up and then hopefully drive to the side (if there is a side, and if you are not blocking the water/air thing) and then you open your laptop in the comfort (behind the wheel) of your car and try to surf?
Inside, there is no place to put a laptop. The Statoils I visit don't have (or maybe I have not noticed) even these standup tables for eating their hotdogs. The reason may be that while they want to sell non-fuel stuff, they don't want the place crowded with teenyboppers and the neighborhood drunks (sometimes the hotdog and coke deals are not bad if that's the only meal of the day in a warm place).
Good idea about pharmacies ;-), can I put down my laptop on the counter while you fill my prescription? Come to think of it, has anybody warchalked the signal from the Jugla Statoil in Riga to see if it goes as far as the drive-in queue at McDonalds?

Juris Kazha
main honcho of da blog