To not offer WiFi access to visitors is on the same level of social faux pas as to not allow visitors access to the toilet. I’ve reviewed previously the great market research Instabridge did on the typical consumer’s view of WiFi and 3G, with the classic quote “WiFi is free, 3G isn’t,” as shown in the video below. Instabridge provides a way to unlock the world’s locked down WiFi networks in homes, offices, cafes and restaurants and make them accessible. What’s really interesting about Instabrige’s approach is they encourage people use WiFi where it matters and consume the majority of mobile data: in homes. Instabridge was founded in 2012, is based in Stockholm; and I’ve known Niklas Agevik, founder and CEO, for several years.
Instabridge is a WiFi client that makes it easy to share WiFi network details with your friends, sync passwords between your tablets and phones, and access community hotspots. Whenever you connect to a network, you can choose to share it with friends. That means whenever one of your Instabridge friends comes close to that network they will be automatically connected to it. For example, if you and your friends share your home WiFi through Instabridge, you will all have access to each other’s WiFi networks without having to ask for passwords. And if any of your friends change their password, Instabridge will automatically sync that for you. You don’t even have to know about it, your connection will always just work. Instabridge also lets you sync passwords between your tablets and your phones, as well as access hotspots shared with everyone in the Instabridge community.
A previous article reviews BlueButterfly with TapToWiFi, with Instabridge the two provide a very compelling proposition to cafes and restaurants to provide great value to their customers not just on their premise. WiFi will remain the most important internet access method for most people. My family on average consumes 100 times more data through WiFi than mobile (200GB versus 2GB). With Instabridge’s app WiFi access is under the customer’s control, not trapped in a commercial silo of the broadband access provider, if this goes viral it has the potential to change how we use WiFi outside the home and office. Google Play shows plenty of Wi-Fi-related apps in the top 500 hundred lists doing everything from hacking WEP keys to analyzing the optimal configuration for your home Wi-Fi router. The popularity of such apps demonstrates the importance of WiFi to consumers.
Many fixed broadband providers have tried opening up their WiFi routers in customers’ homes, FON and Anyfi are examples of such software. Another approach is Social WiFi, which is where the customer decides, like Instabridge. Incumbent mobile operators are also embracing WiFi, for example Ericsson finally accepted WiFi as an important technology by buying BelAir Networks. And we’re seeing a number of WiFi off-load deals being announced by mobile operators in the past 6 months.
Between the commercial WiFi silos of mobile and fixed operators, social WiFi could be an interesting glue to deliver a ubiquity that keeps customers happy and network utilization optimal. However, the economics between mobile broadband and WiFi do vary significantly by country and by operator situation. Social WiFi is an interesting one to watch, it needs to go viral, but once it achieves a sizable footprint in a country across all the different types of access points, its not just homes, its offices, cafes and restaurants; social WiFi’s role in service provider access becomes interesting.