Wifog seeks to reverse fortunes of ad-funded MVNOs

Caught in that limbo state between abject boredom and fear of missing the call for boarding, I was more than happy to pass a few minutes by giving my opinion on the state of services and facilities at London Heathrow's Terminal 5 on my way back from the UK this week.

A very nice customer services lady ran through questions about waiting times and general cleanliness, and I have to say that my responses were largely positive.

This was until we got to the final question about Wi-Fi services. "Poor," I said immediately.

"Oh dear," said the sympathetic lady. "Couldn't you get on the network?"

"Oh yes," I said, "but I was only allowed 45 minutes. I was waiting here for almost two hours and should have had free access for the entire time."

"Yes," agreed the researcher. "Most people say that."

If "most people" want free Wi-Fi access at an airport, conference centre or hotel, then it really is staggering that this is often still not the case. I have just been put off booking one particular hotel, for example, because it promised a whole "15 minutes of free Wi-Fi a day."

Fifteen minutes? That's barely enough to get you through online check-in.

One company executive has actually named his company in response to this poor state of affairs with regard to free Wi-Fi access at airports.

"I travel a lot," said Carl Ander, the founder and CEO of a Sweden-based mobile virtual network operator. "I was upset that I had to pay for Wi-Fi."

Rather than just moaning and doing without, Ander took a far more proactive approach: he set up a company that initially provided free Wi-Fi as a cloud-based service for a couple of months. The name of the company was Wifog, and I'm sure I don't have to explain how that came about!

Now, Wifog has moved into mobile services and has established an MVNO agreement with 3 Sweden. But the company is still following Ander's dream of "free" communications: the service is ad-funded, and therefore provides free mobile data services to consumers prepared to sit through the odd video clip.

Ad-funded MVNOs cannot yet be described as the most successful business model given recent high-profile failures, such as Samba Mobile in the UK. Wifog believes it has the right solution, however. You can read more about it in an upcoming feature on MVNOs that will shortly appear on FierceWireless:Europe.

Stay tuned, as they say.--Anne