SitWiFi recently gained notoriety when it announced partnership with Google to convert its existing hotspots to the Station format. In a recent visit to Mexico City, I sat down with SitWiFi executives to discuss their vision and plans vis a vis Wi-Fi in general and their partnership with Google.
SitWiFi’s footprint of 30,000 access points (90% indoor) includes airports, convention centers, bus terminals, hotels, universities, shopping malls and multi dwelling units. In comparison Telmex has close to 200,00 access points but are known to be slow moving in adopting new technologies and business models.
As of today, the public hotspots are available in over 60 “high-traffic” locations in 44 Mexican cities, including airports, malls and mass transit stations. Coverage should expand to more than 100 locations before 2018 is over. This is the first Google Station foray into the Latin American market following its initial deployment in India. Google Station is a free, high-speed Wi-Fi service that is currently available at 270 railway stations in India. Google partnered with RailTel for the Wi-Fi project and relied on Railtel’s pan-India optic fiber network which is exclusively on the railway track. The Google Station project allowed users to access high-speed internet for free at railway stations.
SitWiFi seems to have adopted or tried every way to monetize Wi-Fi as it enjoys a stable revenue streams from managed Wi-Fi services to businesses, especially in the hospitality sector who recognize the value of secure and reliable Wi-Fi service and are thus more willing to pay for it. Other segments such as malls and public venues were not so keen to pay for Wi-Fi and instead provided exclusive rights to SitWIFi to provide wireless services in their venues with or without some revenue sharing agreement. From there, SitWiFi has been testing the various business models:
- Ads including with Google Station revenue sharing
- Roaming agreements with the likes of ipass or AT7T for international data offload and soon to follow MVNO deals with the likes of Virgin.
- Premium services with SLAs, higher bandwidth
- Professional services catered at particular segments such as airlines in the airports. Services could include baggage handling, application push, check-in services, etc
- Sell big data to businesses
- Rent SSID to other carriers as neutral host
About 80% of the access points are from Arris-Ruckus while the remaining are Cisco-Meraki. SitWiFi managed its Ruckus access points through the Virtual Wireless LAN Controller for Mid-Sized Enterprises
The natural candidates to cloud-managed Wi-Fi include large distributed enterprises with many locations and small and medium business with insufficient or no IT staff to manage their Wi-Fi. However, even large enterprises without multiple remote locations such as universities and campuses are great candidates to benefit from a transition from on-premises WLAN management to cloud-managed WLAN architectures.
For its roaming hub, SitWiF has deployed Accuris because it was already integrated with AT&T and ipass, 2 roaming partners. New roaming schemes could include working with Syniverse marketplace which would charge a percentage based on roaming activity and revenues and no fixed cost, an attractive proposition to SitWiFi since roaming revenues have been negligible so far. SitWiFi also indicated they are starting to deploy Passpoint/hotspot 2.0 and are looking for ways to make Wi-Fi more profitable.