How to make money from your public Wi-Fi network

If your public Wi-Fi network isn’t making you money, you’re doing it wrong, says Pieter Engelbrecht, business unit manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise Aruba, a vendor of data networking solutions for enterprises and businesses.

Consumers increasingly expect businesses, restaurants, malls and offices to provide free connectivity. For many business people, free Wi-Fi is a deciding factor when choosing which coffee shop to work from between meetings. “And if they’ve used your Wi-Fi before, they expect to be able to connect automatically the next time they walk through your doors,” said Engelbrecht.

But, he said that the other reality about connectivity is that it’s expensive for businesses to offer free Wi-Fi, and in an age of heightened security risks and increasing costs of doing business, providing free Wi-Fi may seem like more effort than it’s worth.

Engelbrecht said it is time for businesses to view their public networks as an opportunity to make money. “By monetising their networks, businesses create a low-effort, effective additional revenue stream,
which should be music to anyone’s ears in the current economic climate.”

“Picture this: a consumer walks into a shopping mall and her device automatically connects to the network. When walking past a clothing store, she instantly gets a push notification, offering a 10%
discount if she purchases something in the next hour. As she nears a coffee shop, she gets another message – this time a voucher for a free coffee,” Engelbrecht said.

Everyone benefits:

  • The consumer saves money on a dress and gets a free coffee – not to mention free Wi-Fi;
  • The clothing store made a sale and, with any luck, the consumer bought a muffin to go with her free coffee;
  • Mall management successfully monetised its Wi-Fi network by allowing the coffee shop and clothing store to advertise on the network and send push notifications to the consumer as soon as she was in their vicinity. This could either be done by offering advertising packages to shops, or by raising rent to include advertising for all shops in the mall.

“Here’s another scenario, which may sound familiar. Traffic on the highway has made you late for a flight. When you finally arrive at the airport, you get stuck behind a faulty boom. When you get inside the parking lot, there are no open bays. Eventually you find one at the far end of the parking lot.

“You race to check-in, only to find out that your flight has been delayed. ‘Frustrating’ doesn’t cover it,” Engelbrecht said.

If you’re a frequent flyer and the airport had an intelligent network, the scenario would likely have played out like this: as you pull into the parking lot, your device connects to the network. It already has all your flight details and sends you a message, telling you that your flight is delayed. It knows your number plate, so the booms open automatically and the network guides you to an open parking bay, identified through sensors. Your favourite coffee shop knows your flight is delayed and sends you a voucher for a free drink to go with your meal while you wait.

The other benefit is that, over time, the network will end up paying for itself; everything else will be money in the bank, said Engelbrecht.

Wi-Fi networks offer an entirely new way to engage with customers, staff and prospects, as well as an opportunity to increase revenue and make data-driven decisions. “Consumers expect to engage with businesses in ways they never have before and intelligent networks are the perfect enablers,” Engelbrecht said.


Read: Why having a fast internet connection increases your chances of landing a job in SA

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