In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, News, Spectrum

As part of the City Wi-Fi Roaming project, 23 tier-one mobile service providers have joined forces to work on providing free international public wifi roaming in cities around the world. Singapore is the first city in Asia to announce its participation in the project.

The City Wi-Fi Roaming Project, launched by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, will launch public wifi roaming in New York, Barcelona, Dublin, Singapore, San Francisco and San Jose, at first.

The WBA says the initiative allows consumers and visitors to automatically and securely roam between public Wi-Fi networks throughout August.

The free seamless Wi-Fi Roaming service is based on Next Generation Hotspot (NGH), Passpoint Technology based on Hotspot 2.0 Specifications.

The participants include some of the world’s biggest service providers, including AT&T, BT, China Mobile, KT, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, HKT, SK Telecom, Sprint, Swisscom, Telecom New Zealand, Telstra, Telus and T-Mobile USA.

Notably missing from that list are tier-one cable TV companies.

The roaming agreements illustrate the key role now played by Wi-Fi as a foundational mobile access method, as well as Wi-Fi’s importance to mobile business models globally.

The move also illustrates a perception by mobile operators that supporting universal roaming on public hotspot networks–and gaining access network coverage–is more important than trying to protect very-profitable mobile data roaming revenues.

In this case, end user perceptions of value outweigh even the direct revenue contributions provided by pricey data roaming charges.

In effect, mobile operators are making a direct trade off: forsaking data roaming revenues for higher perceived value by customers, as well as what effectively is the ability to use public Wi-Fi as an extension of network access infrastructure, without direct facilities investment.

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