Here’s an interesting turn of events. Even as cable and telecom companies gear up with 4G wireless broadband strategies, Wi-Fi continues to grow in popularity, and more operators are starting to use it to their advantage. After news of Cablevision and Comcast offering free Wi-Fi at select hotspots to home broadband subscribers, it now turns out that Verizon is contemplating a similar initiative. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal blog Digits, Verizon is working to provide free access to Boingo hotspots around the world. The Boingo service regularly costs $9.95 per month.
I spend a great deal of time at free Wi-Fi hotspots, and have been known to curse the establishment (airport, coffee shop, etc.) that charges a fee for access. The idea of bundling Wi-Fi access with home broadband service makes a lot of sense. Consumers love it, and it extends brand reach for operators. In addition, free Wi-Fi on the go truly whets the appetite for mobile broadband, which 4G technology will provide. Wi-Fi is great, but it isn’t everywhere. Not on trains, in cars, or in the bowels of many trade show convention center halls.
So what does all this mean for Wi-Fi and 4G? Just that they will likely play complementary roles in the future. And that operators are happy to take advantage of both technologies.