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July 14, 2009

More Consumers Demanding Free WiFi: Telecom Insider

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

WiFi has become so prevalent that many casual Internet users – whether they’re surfing the Web from a laptop, netbook, smartphone or other device – tend to expect connectivity wherever they go, and get annoyed when it’s not free, the head of a publication for telecom networks told TMCnet this week.

According to Douglas Green, publisher of Telecom Reseller, WiFi must be paid for by someone – and for industries such as airlines it’s emerged as a relatively inexpensive way to make a customer’s experience more enjoyable.
Yet, as Green – who is moderating a session on “Creating Mobile Voice & Video Applications” during ITEXPO West in September – told TMC President Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) in an interview (printed in full below), consumers’ expectations about free WiFi everywhere may be a little extreme.
“Businesses that are seeking to be locations might see it as a nice customer accommodation while many others – and we in telecom are legendary for forgetting about the rest of the world – will not,” Green told Tehrani.
During the interview, Green also said that he thinks telecom expense management is among the strongest segments in communications.
Their exchange follows.
RT: What has the economic crisis taught you, and how has it changed your customers?
Douglas Green (pictured left): Customers still buy value and, all reports to the contrary, the world has not come to an end. There’s no doubt that we have lived through a radical decline in business activity and in overall demand for telephony, yet all along business continues to function. People continue to buy products. So – you don’t worry about growth. You go to basics and just simply operate by offering things people want.
RT: How is this down economy affecting your decisions to reinvest in your company or market, if at all? Where will you invest?
DG: You make every effort to retain your staff because this is your real value and real potential. Invest in people first. I know that’s no sexy to say in a technology magazine, but if you have no talent, you have nothing. Next, this is the time to look to technology to create value and generate savings.
RT: What’s the strongest segment in the communications industry?
DG: Products and services that allow people to manage maintain and fine-tune their networks. This is highly related to cost control or TEM (telecom expense management). People want to know what they are paying for, be rational about what they paying for and to make the best use of what they own.
RT: With the rise of smartphones and netbooks, many wireless technologies, such as WiFi, appear to be poised for rapid growth. For example, we’re seeing more and more airlines add in-flight WiFi. In general, how widespread should WiFi be, in your view?
DG: Well, in theory “WiFi should be,” as the question puts it, everywhere. But since WiFi is not offered out the goodness of anyone’s heart, it has to be paid for. The airlines are thinking that they will be able to sell access, or that it’s a very inexpensive way to provide a better customer experience. Other public WiFi is also being offered to enhance customer experience of a location, such as a hotel lobby or to make a location into a so- called “third place,” where people gather. The problem is that now people expect it to be free and are very annoyed if it is not. So businesses that are seeking to be locations might see it as a nice customer accommodation while many others (and we in telecom are legendary for forgetting about the rest of the world), will not.
RT: Which nation or region of the world will present the largest opportunity for your company in 2009/10?
DG: We remain committed to the U.S. and Canadian marktes.
RT: In what ways is President Barack Obama helping or hindering the technology markets? What more can he do?
DG: The move to a paperless health care industry record keeping system will not only transform that very large sector, but will no doubt develop collateral technologies and companies that will bring those findings to all other markets.
RT: What device or devices do you use, and what do you wish you used?
DG: I was an Apple (News - Alert) user when Apple wasn’t cool. As long as Apple retains its values, I am sure they will have more things like the iPhone (which I am addicted to). Since I report on all the enterprise manufacturers and solutions groups, I take the fifth on telling you what desktop phone and system I have.
RT: What has the iPhone 3G taught us? I know it’s very new, but what about the Palm Pre? What are we learning from the smartphones based on the open source Google Android (News - Alert) platform?
DG: People like convenience (surprise!) and things that work (surprise!) and things that look cool (surprise!) and things that are as easy to use as toaster (surprise!). The brilliant idea of allowing thousands of vendors to develop applications, and than to allow a simple platform- iTunes- to operate as a single source. They have created a General Store for the 21st century. They have also taken every Sharper Image gadget, made it in iThing-EE and offer it. Why smoke when you can fiddle with your phone?
Google and Apple are both saying: this is a platform, a device- your main thing. This is your communication’s hub, your entertainment and your news source.
RT: I understand you are speaking during ITEXPO West, to be held Sept. 1 to 3 in Los Angeles. Describe your talk and tell us what companies or people should attend.
DG: I am moderating “Creating Mobile Voice & Video Applications.”
Well, if you are reading this on a mobile device, you can answer the question. I think mobility and communication are about to become one and the same. That’s why you should attend.
RT: Why should customers choose your company’s solutions? How do they justify the expense to management?
DG: If you sell or buy telecommunications products or services, we need to talk. We have over 37,000 readers, and among them are just about anyone who sells or manages IP-PBX in any of the eight largest markets. Need telecom resellers? Please call me at Telecom Reseller (News - Alert).

Learn more about Telecom Reseller at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO (News - Alert) West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Don’t wait. Register now!

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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