August 4th, 2005

The Banning of Free Wi-Fi

You’ve probably seen the news coming out of Boston that Massport is asking Continental Airlines to stop offering free Wi-Fi at its airport lounge. Ironic given that unlicensed spectrum is meant to be “available” provided that the users follow a set of guidelines.

Massport doesn’t have much reason to worry yet. Our research shows that the majority of Wi-Fi users will only use the service if it is free. It is true that airports and hotels have a higher percentage of traffic willing to pay. (See research) If too many travelers freeload from Continental’s network, they are likely to take action themselves to prevent the service from being degraded to the point that their customers are actually willing to go somewhere else and pay for the service. The industry is still new. Allowing travelers to trial the service for free is likely to driver longer term demand – even for the paid service.

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