Madrid-based Gowex, which offers free municipal Wi-Fi service in some 80 cities worldwide, launched what it is calling a new social Wi-Fi network in New York City, which the company hopes will lead to more partnerships with mobile and fixed broadband providers.
Dubbed We2 and launching on Dec. 15 in partnership with the New York City Economic Development, Gowex said the program aims to turn private hotspots--such as those found in shops and restaurants--into public hotspots that can easily be accessed for free by users registered on the We2 network. The We2 network will also include access to Gowex's hotspots in cities worldwide.
Globally, private Wi-Fi has been estimated to offer 30 times more capacity than all of the world's cellular networks, said Carlos Gomez Vendrell, CEO of We2. "We have created a new business unit and technology that enables us to capture all of that potential together with partners like cities and operators. We're intending to capture all of that private Wi-Fi, not only in residential segments, but also at retail sites," he told FierceWirelessTech.
The company's We2 application "will enable everybody to seamlessly roam on this new network that we are creating as well as on the rest of the Gowex network," Gomez said.
As part of its New York initiative, Gowex is also deploying We2-equipped Wi-Fi networks across several key corridors within Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, adding to the more than 2,000 outdoor access points the company already operates in the city.
The social networking aspect of Gowex's plan stems from letting users accessing its We2 network through the We2 App to see other We2 users on the network and engage in peer-to-peer communications.
Further, small- and medium-size merchants can leverage the system to offer discounts and other promotions to visitors using their private Wi-Fi networks, but only if those visitors have opted in to receive such information. Merchants will also be able to leverage an app that lets them know more about visitors to their location, such as their product interests, in order to push more localized and personalized advertising, Gomez said.
The standard Gowex public-private partnership business model has been based upon building out free, municipal Wi-Fi networks via deals with cities. Monetization is achieved via payments from cities, roaming charges assessed to fixed, mobile and wireless carriers when their customers use Gowex's hotspots for data offloading, as well as through advertising and fees for premium use.
Gowex hopes We2 opens the door to more strategic alliances with telcos seeking product differentiation, cost savings and new revenue streams from facilitating advertising and communications activities between retailers and customers. The company, which was founded in 1998, already has roaming deals with large telcos such as AT&T (NYSE:T) and Deutsche Telekom.
Gowex also said it will expand its business model to 300 cities before 2020.
The idea of sharing excess capacity on private Wi-Fi networks is quickly catching on. Fon, another Madrid-based company that encourages users to share their Wi-Fi router signal with others in exchange for free access to other Fon hotspots around the world, announced its U.S. launch last week. Cable operator Comcast is also offering home Wi-Fi gateways that can broadcast a second signal to create neighborhood hotspots that extend its Xfinity Wi-Fi network.
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