Become A Hotspot Mogul For Just $13,000
By Mike Masnick, Fri Dec 03 01:45:00 GMT 2004

Despite the fact that no one has been able to make a success out of being in the direct commercial hotspot business, one company thinks that people will be convinced to shell out $13,000 to start their own hotspot business.

Even companies with a lot of money can't seem to survive building a commercial Wi-Fi hotspot network, it appears that one company has decided the way to make money is to convince others that they can somehow be successful in the hotspot market. All you need is $13,000 and a dream.

Apparently, the company in question is selling hotspot franchises via late night infomercials. The $13,000 gets you "a gateway, software, and some terminals that take cash." Actually, the details show that the $13,000 only buys you one terminal. Each extra terminal runs about $10,000 - $12,000. In a lot of ways, this is similar to the independent ATM business -- and, in fact, the company compares its offering to the independent ATM business of the 1990s.

The problem, obviously enough, is that even the big providers are learning that they can't compete with free -- and that hotspots really need to act as either a promotion for another product or a feature to reduce churn. There are simply too many incredibly cheap or free options out there. Even worse, these terminals have set pricing for Wi-Fi access, which is a bit higher than most other commercial providers are offering. Also, some may choke at the $13,000 price tag at a time when Wi-Fi access points can routinely be found for under $50 -- though, this terminal obviously contains a lot more than just an access point. It has a direct Internet access station, as well as a way to take money. It also has adjective-laden features to let you know that it's designed to take a beating from a dangerous public: "impact resistant LCD monitor [and] anti-vandal and waterproof industrial keyboard." Whether or not these features are worth $13,000 might depend on how badly you think people plan to beat on the terminal.

It's a bit unfortunate that companies are trying to hype up this space as an "investment opportunity" when the real opportunities are still being mapped out. While it's unlikely that too many people will buy into this type of plan, you almost have to feel sorry for someone who sets one of these up, only to discover that there are a number of free Wi-Fi access points all around that particular location. However, consider this yet another sign that Wi-Fi and hotspots have reached the next stage of the growth curve. It's no longer about the technology, itself -- but what you can do with it.