Free-For-All Access To Wireless LANs - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Free-For-All Access To Wireless LANs

Airports and hotels find there may be benefits to providing free service

The convenience of wireless access typically comes with a high price tag. But that's changing. Some airports and hotels have begun installing 802.11 Wi-Fi networks and letting travelers use them for free.

Pittsburgh International Airport, which recently completed deployment of a free wireless LAN in its food court, is expanding it to all gates. "We are the only airport in the country, and one of two in the world, to offer this as a free service to the traveling public," says Tony Gialloreto, the airport's IT manager. "It's a real asset."

A pay-for-use wireless network wasn't a success, so Pittsburgh International Airport installed a free wireless LAN.

Photo by John Heller/Bloomburg News
The airport previously had a pay-for-use wireless LAN, operated by an outside contractor. But when the vendor tried to increase the price of the contract for the service, airport officials balked. The pay network hadn't been much of a success, Gialloreto says. "We determined that we weren't having a lot of hits." Few travelers want to pay the going airport Wi-Fi rate of around $11 for 24 hours of service, he says. "Most people are in and out in an hour or two."

For the new network, the airport deployed an Enterasys Secure Networks wireless LAN architecture. The feedback from travelers has been great, Gialloreto says, and executives at other airports have begun asking his advice on how to follow suit.

These efforts don't invalidate the pay model, but prove there are situations where it doesn't work, says Pat Hurley, an analyst at consulting firm TeleChoice. The number of Wi-Fi users who've paid for access is in the low-single-digit percentages, he says. "The big problem with the pay model right now is that if I travel a lot, I have to end up getting an account with two or three different providers" for nationwide access. At $30 to $35 per subscription each month, those costs quickly mount. In contrast, it's not that expensive for organizations to set up a free wireless LAN.

The hotel industry is moving in this direction, too. Choice Hotels International Inc., one of the largest lodging franchisors in the world, is planning to roll out free wireless Internet access in public areas and guest rooms at all of its 370 Comfort Suites and 140 Clarion properties by the end of May and to expand the program to two more of the company's brands by the end of the year.

Guests are making high-speed Internet access a deciding factor when choosing a hotel, says Paul Payette, senior director of new business development for Choice. "The market's going to dictate what you need to do to be competitive," he says. Wireless has become so mainstream that it made sense for Choice to go the wireless route over a wired LAN, Payette says. The average installation will cost about $13,000 per hotel.

Best Western also plans to roll out free wireless access this year, complemented by wired access. But at San Francisco International Airport, there's still faith in the pay-for-wireless-service model. The airport last summer entered into a five-year contract with T-Mobile that called for the vendor to install and maintain all equipment in exchange for a percentage of user-access fees. The airport expects eventually to make money from the service, community-affairs director Michael McCarron says, but it isn't predicting when it will become profitable.

Continue to the sidebar: An Answer To Multiple Wireless LAN Bills

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
How to Fail: Digital Transformation Mistakes
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/6/2019
Study Proposes 5 Primary Traits of Innovation Leaders
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/8/2019
Top-Paying U.S. Cities for Data Scientists and Data Analysts
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  11/5/2019
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Getting Started With Emerging Technologies
Looking to help your enterprise IT team ease the stress of putting new/emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT to work for their organizations? There are a few ways to get off on the right foot. In this report we share some expert advice on how to approach some of these seemingly daunting tech challenges.
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll