Intel Tries To Make WiFi Roaming Easier

I need to vent something briefly here on this topic…

While I was still employed at my former employer, the agency that manages ALL of Intel’s world-wide marketing efforts I proposed an idea VERY similar to this which was rejected by agency management and
decreed something that was not something Intel would want to manage. Well today is the day things change…

It’s clear that one issue holding back wider use of WiFi hotspots is the fact that the market is so fragmented. While there are plenty of free hotspots, one of the problems in getting people to sign up for paid hotspots is that the coverage is so sporadic and every place seems to be supported by a different provider. If you really want widespread coverage, you need accounts with a variety of different providers – which becomes ridiculously expensive. While the different hotspot builders and aggregators have been trying to negotiate roaming agreements, Intel has gotten fed up with the process and has routed around a number of their own partners to create RoamPoint, which is designed to be a single place for providers to create across the board roaming arrangements in Europe so that they don’t have to negotiate with each and every other provider.

They’re modeling it after how roaming agreements are set up with GSM networks. That sounds good in theory, but there are still some hurdles. First, they need to get the providers to agree to it. It’s noteworthy that the announcement of RoamPoint didn’t seem to come with any news of providers actually using the service. Also, they’ve just added yet another mouth to feed out of tiny hotspot fees. Now, for every paid hotspot you have a mix of some or all of the following: the retail location owner, the hotspot provider, the bandwidth provider, the aggregator and the roaming provider. It seems difficult to figure out where the profit is. [Techdirt Corporate Intelligence: Techdirt Wireless]

In essence my idea was this… As Intel was gearing up for the unwire campaign we would include a loyalty program with a card (though it certainly did not have to be tangible) that would enable people to receive a couple of key benefits.

First – gear would be discounted and this would be taken care of by the massive Intel Inside budget that already exists – it’s significantly larger than Intels direct marketing budget (not DM, but main intel branded efforts).

Second and here’s the why I am frustrated with today’s announcement. Intel could assume an instant leadership role by becoming a lead aggregator of hotspot connectivity. What you got instead was yet another hot spot locator.

Let’s be honest for a second and openly acknowledge that Intel is way late to wireless. Apple had it for
years within their systems and Intel had a major uphill climb to make to catch up. There were plenty of options for wi-fi well before Centrino (which embeds wifi alongside the processor) came out.

Granted launching a new line of business is fraught with risk – I get that – but Intel has money to use for marketing efforts to sell more PCs. They know how to ID machines on the web even – rememeber the
Pentium III web outfittter program? It blocked non-intel silicon from entering, not just Apple, but AMD as well. If the proper revenue sharing agreements were drawn up everyone would win. You would not need to know whether you had to have iPass, Boingo, T-Mobile, Cometa (another Intel funded company) or whatever. If you were part of the program you could connect anywhere there was a playing parter. If you were a wifi provider you’d want to play (at least in my mind) because a reduced revenue customer would still be a money you might not have if the person chose a competing service.

The main trick to pay-wireless is that it is far from universal. At least with cellular you can roam in many cases… in landline you can call a customer of another carrier without issue. Wireless connectivity should be simplified. If the goal as Intel’s marketing goes is to live the wireless life, it has to work where you are at the time you find a connection.

(I guess that wasn’t that brief)

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