Recently, a new café has opened in the neighborhood of my flat in Germany and surprise surprise, they offer Internet access via a T-Mobile hotspot. Recently, I talked to the owner to find out more about her motivation to install a Wifi hotspot and how she went about it.
The pros and cons of a T-Mobile Hotspot
Getting a setup from T-Mobile seems to be fairly simple. After filing an application, a T-Mobile technician comes by and installs the Wifi access point and DSL connection. The owner of the business only has to pay for the power required by the equipment, installation and operation of the hotspot is free. For most businesses, this "no headache" approach to getting a Wifi hotspot is ideal.
On the other hand, there are a number of downsides as well: Firstly, the business owner does not get a share of the revenue. Also, the owner does not get free Internet access for himself. While she does not care for a share of the revenue much she is quite disappointed that she as no Internet access for herself over the DSL connection used for the hotspot.
The owner of the café is also quite disappointed that end user pricing of 2 euros for 15 minutes or 8 euros per hour is not attracting a lot of customers to use the service. She told me that she has business customers every now and then who download their eMails but students and locals who mainly frequent her business are hardly attracted to bring their notebooks and come more often.
The FON Alternative
But wait, there's an alternative: FON, the wireless LAN hotspot initiative on which I've reported already here and here. The downside: The installation, hardware and the required DSL connection are not free. Thus, it's obviously not as easy to organize and setup up as a T-Mobile hotspot. But the advantages are compelling. If the FON hotspot is set up in Linus mode, people can use it for free if they also of a Linus FON hotspot at home. Thus, the café becomes an extension of their living room / office. For people without a FON hotspot at home, service is offered for 3 euros a day. That's definitely a sum which is much more compelling than the T-Mobile hotspot prices. And on top of this, the café's owner gets the Internet connection she wants.
At the end of our discussion I told her bit about FON. So let's see, maybe she'll switch. I think I could get quite used to leaving my apartment / office every now and then for a cappuccino in the café while surfing the net, working on a blog entry and enjoying the atmosphere in the café.