Wonderful Wi-Fi: Opportunities in the Air

Broadband wireless access based on the 802.11 standard (Wi-Fi) remains a hot opportunity for channel partners interested in deploying public access hotspots such as those found at Starbucks, setting up enterprise wireless LANs, selling remote access subscriptions and even deploying WAN services and industrial applications. Discover how your agency can capitalize on this continuing growth market during The Channel Partners Conference & Expos second general session, Its in the Air: Opportunities in Wi-Fi.

Moderator Betty Cockrell, director of industry relations at Billing Concepts Inc., and speakers Mark D. Trotter, president Nationwide Wireless Services Inc.; Pat Rudolph, vice president of solutions architecture, 3Com Corp.; and Jeff Manning, director of business development, Airpath Wireless Inc. will cover the hardware, service and support/management aspects of this new phenomenon.

The Telecommunications Industry Associations 2004 Telecommunications Market Review and Forecast reports spending in the U.S. wireless market (transport services, handsets, infrastructure, equipment and professional services) totaled $134.5 billion in 2003. Wireless spending will grow at a compound annual rate of 9.1 percent from 2004 to 2007, reaching an estimated $190.8 billion. Wi-Fi is a significant driver for the market as a whole, TIA notes, representing a small but rapidly growing component of wireless communications services. Spending on Wi-Fi services is predicted to increase from $21 million in 2003 to $270 million by 2007.

While employees of large businesses currently make up the largest single segment of

business users of wireless data, by 2009 small business employees will comprise nearly 40 percent of all such users, according to analyst firm In-Stat/MDR. More opportunity could be coming down the pike: a survey of 1,000 firms by In-Stat MDR found that nearly a third would be very interested in a service that would let them use a cellular phone over a Wi-Fi network.

There are two main plays for channel partners selling hotspot access and offering corporate wireless LANs. For the former, some service providers are offering programs that make selling subscriptions for upfront commissions very lucrative, especially if the agent can bundle the Wi-Fi with other wireless options. Other opportunities include setting up hotspots for marinas, hotels and the like (involving equipment sales) and offering secondary follow-on services such as WLAN management and security, or applications consulting, particularly for vertical markets.

The market is brimming with opportunities and the panelists represent a cross-section of offers. Billing Concepts Inc. offers the eZ-Wi Wireless LAN Solution, an independent clearing and settlement service connecting the subscribers of ISPs with public wireless LAN hotspot operators. eZ-Wi offers subscribers of participating ISPs to access the Internet at participating hotspots. Airpath Wireless works with partners to deploy a full solution to get a hotspot up and running. 3Com makes access points, switches and other hardware, while Nationwide Wireless can offer insights to distribution strategies.

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