Monday, January 16, 2012

Moving Free WiFi Out of a Residential Area

I moved the mesh radio I had at home out to a retail store to see what impact it would have on network use. If you look at the image above between January 10 and January 12, there are three routers with one in a residential setting.

After January 13, you'll notice that the usage becomes sparse and light. This could be attributed to several factors. For instance, when people are out of the home, they are not looking at retail locations to provide free WiFi. The main users of the all-commercial hotspots are people with mobile phones, though this is probably skewed given that two routers are located in mobile phone stores; but, it holds just as true for the third router, which is in a restaurant. That is to say, mainly mobile users.

There is another possibility; the splash page is an unfamiliar step for most mobile users. They are connecting; I can see the connections. Somehow, they are not drawing data. I believe that some users are not aware that the connection requires them to view the splash page. I'll experiment with this next week by turning off the splash page for an entire week. I'm curious how big an obstacle authentication is for the average user.

My least popular theory, amongst me, myself, and I, are that mobile users just aren't that into WiFi. This does not necessarily mean that all mobile users aren't that into WiFi. Simply, that the locations that I have chosen don't attract users or bore them to the point they want to surf the web. Another network, for example, has minimum of 4 mobile users each day; it is located at a doctor's office.

Ultimately, the splash page is the value proposition for prospective businesses wanting to provide free WiFi. Therefore, I can't skip it

In the business perspective, my results thus far placate the fear that people will slam a free WiFi connection if made available. As can be observed with three access points, the results are hardly overwhelming the connections. It also shows that people are not squatting on WiFi connections.

The downside is that lack of use also suggests that having a Hotspot may not be worthwhile. Why do it if only a handful of users will take advantage? For me the reasons are clear; but, they are not clear to everybody. I will have to learn to make my case.

There are more experiments on the way. Since I'm funding them with my own money, I can't run concurrent experiments as I would like.
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