broadband End User

W-w-w-why wi-fi works

why-fiIn the last 2 years, I have travelled through 22 US States, the Caribbean, UK, France and Spain. In the last three weeks alone, I have clocked up 1000+ miles per week in 3 different countries. During 90% of that time, my phone has been on airplane mode after being hit with substantial bills for roaming charges a couple of years ago. Public WiFi is the answer.

Living without a mobile number is not as tough as it seems as long as there are plenty of places to access wifi. And in many countries, there are – cafes, airports, train stations, hotels, bars, marinas, service stations etc. (France is not one of them, in my experience over the last 12 months – soz.) However, for nomadic folk, these places are a godsend. And it is where we spend our money. Not on wifi, but on coffees, meals, beers, fuel, stopovers etc.

wot phone number
My number? Ummm….

[There is one big gripe though – the vast number of apps who ask you for a mobile number to create an account. I quite simply do not have one for you guys. I don’t GSM. So, when Whatsapp sold to Facebook today and I turned to, we fell at the first hurdle – try it yourself!]

If you don’t have wifi, we move on, spending nothing more normally than a penny. The loo is normally the first stop on arrival and gives time to switch on wifi, scan for a network, log on, run a speedtest, and decide whether to order some vittals, buy fuel, stick around for a while to check emails, make Skype calls and so on. Or move on.

The arguments within companies about whether to offer free wifi often revolve around security issues and cost. The first is a red herring. Whatever is on an existing wireless network can be kept safe from a free wifi network very simply, and anyone who really wants to hack into your EPOS probably can, and will.

The second is a no brainer.

Without wifi, you have lost sales. End of.

Unless you are providing your free wifi fed by a leased line at £20k a year (more fool you), then the sales that will come simply by advertising the fact you have wifi will cover any costs you may incur.

I have PAYG SIM cards for every country I have visited now but you can munch through a tenner’s worth of data and calls in a day or less (as just happened to me in UK), so the cards generally sit untouched during travels in a safe place.

It starts like this…”I’ll just check my e-mails” Next thing you know, you’re having a meal, watching the band, and renting a room!

To me, a similar amount that I would have spent on an unknown tariff could be spent on a meal or a drink with free wifi.  To my mind, this is a (life) saving spend. Especially because I can just use the connection without being concerned that the top up is going to run out any minute and am therefore less cautious about usage and hence more productive. And more hungry.

In fact, if the wifi is working fine, it is amazing how often the visit is extended to include a coffee, or beer, and possibly an overnight stay or park-up (as long as your wifi works outside, which in USA often is NOT the case due to pointless, low power restrictions) and then you are there for breakfast too.

This happened regularly in USA, (hotels, marinas and beachside cabins), as well as France and Spain where you can park overnight in service stations for free rather than paying £22.50 as you do in UK. That’s why UK laybys are full of truckers, and someone is missing a trick not providing wifi to those laybys across the UK that are often full nearly 24/7 with the tacho restrictions. They are data hungry those truckers when they pull over 😉

With my stop, and the food we ate, the fuel we put in the tank, and the tip (because leaving one is normal, you know), I probably just paid for far more of the connection than I used in that visit to your shop, restaurant, fuel station etc. The next person in a similar boat to me will undoubtedly do the same. The perception that us wifi users will come in, gobble bandwidth, and only buy the cheapest thing on the menu simply isn’t true!

I spotted this today.  Many people would probably agree with slide 5! And slide 14 is one for folk like me, who are discarding not only our landlines, but also our SIM cards. If you are in the telecom industry, ask yourself what the next big thing is likely to be that could make you a millionaire. It is hard to see with voice revenue tending to zero, SMS slowly dying out, leased lines going the way of ISDN with FTTC and FTTH. I’d go and set up a well-fed cafe, with plenty of fibre, on a major autoroute, with LOTS of parking, and get yourself a good chef! The wiffy, as they call it abroad, goes without saying.

50 Incredible Wi-Fi Tech Statistics That Businesses Must Know from Vala Afshar
Tref adds – couple of relevant posts – 4G better than hotel wifi > here and WiFi in bars in Lisbon > here.
Lindsey Annison

By Lindsey Annison

JFDI Internet marketer, author, Fibre To The Home and rural broadband campaigner, idea merchant

6 replies on “W-w-w-why wi-fi works”

That’s a nice looking beer & tortilla:)

I once stayed at the Churchill Grand Hyatt Regency Hotel (or words to that effect) in London. It was a offer down from £240 to £120. Still a bit pricey but I thought I’d treat myself and what did it for me was the free wifi.
Of course I got there and the wifi wasn’t free. It was available as a package together with the adult movies for the bargain price of £25. I didn’t take them up on the offer (obvs). The annoying thing is that my company Timico was the supplier of the broadband!

Following that I sourced a mobile dongle and now very rarely use the hotel wifi as the mobile connection is usually better.
That said I switch off data roaming when abroad and hop on to free wifi – bars are usually better than hotel.

couple of relevant posts:

I’m not so sure – in the UK I’m paying £12.50 a month for 1GB data (including 4G where available) with unlimited phone/texts. But then who uses a phone for that?! That, together with wifi in most places gets me through and I have been pleasantly surprised by the coverage.

I need the mobile data to stream iplayer radio (6 music) in the car. Harrogate to London with barely a glitch.

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