Every year, there is a new buzzword and every year, there is a new hype. In 2004 it‘s name is “hot spot” and it‘s dead-on-arrival. It‘s just another episode in the ongoing story of “telcos just don‘t get it”. First they did not envision the popularity of SMS, then they tried selling us UMTS with “video telephony” teasers (IT‘S THE INTERNET, STUPID!) and now they try to re-sell air by charging for wireless LAN access points.
An article on Ars Technica notes that T-Mobile makes USD 13 a day in each Starbucks – gross earnings. Congratulations. I wonder what Starbuck‘s win in this game is? Do they get any money from this? I doubt it. So what they offer their customers is super-expensive Internet that nobody buys. So people have basically no Internet usually. And nobody is happy. T-Mobile is not happy, the customers aren‘t happy and Starbucks can‘t be happy with unhappy customers. What‘s wrong?
What‘s wrong is this: idiots are at work. Apparently I have to explain. This is what I expect in a restaurant/bar/pub:
- Good coffee for a fair price
- Free toilets
- Free water
- Free electricity (for low-power devices)
- Free Internet
This is what I want. This is what everybody wants. Nothing more, nothing less. Business People, please understand: this is the century of the Internet. There is no way of charging for it. Hotspots are dead on arrival
The costs (in Germany) for offering free Internet at a Café or restaurant is around EUR 60 per month, accompanied by initial hardware and installation costs of EUR 200 a maximum. It‘s not much, and it is getting less every month. Offering Internet to the customers is not very complicated and is usually done quickly. What you need is this:
- Get a flat-rate Internet DSL line. Flat-rate means, there are no additional monthly costs regardless of the amount of data traffic generated by customers. You will always pay the same fixed tariff, every month.
- Install a WLAN 802.11b oder 802.11b/g Access Point with built-in DSL-Support. Some providers sell one with the initial installation for as low as EUR 50 or less. Almost all WLAN Access Point support direct DSL support (PPPoE)
- Install the Access Point at a central location in your bar/café/pub/restaurant. A central location will distribute the signal evenly across your premises. They usually pass one or two single wall or floor level without problems. Get a second access point or better external antennas if your location is spacious.
- Configure the WLAN Access Point to provide DHCP and NAT. Do not enable WEP encryption as it slows down performance and you have to make the key open anyway. If you suffer from neighbours overusing the line you might try using WEP and changing passwords every now and then.
- Select a nice name for your wireless network and make it “visible”. Switch the beast ON.
- Voilá. You‘re done. Congratulations. Meet happy customers.