Offering free Wi-Fi to your customers may soon get much cheaper.
Google is launching a “highly subsidized” commercial-grade Wi-Fi program targeted at small and mid-sized businesses, according to tech news site The Information. The program, which could be unveiled as early as this summer, would provide hardware and software to businesses, allowing them to affordably and reliably offer Wi-Fi that runs off their current Internet service.
The offering will be aimed at restaurants, retailers, doctor offices, gyms and other small businesses looking to provide a high-quality, free wireless Internet “hotspot” to customers. The hardware would be the only cost involved to businesses, and Google plans to sell that hardware at a “steep discount,” The Information reports.
Google’s mission by offering low-cost Wi-Fi to small businesses is to get more people using its apps and services. Businesses’ Google hotspots will remember and recognize users based on their Google account login, making it easy for them to access Google Wi-Fi hotspots anywhere in the world.
“This so-called Hotspot 2.0 feature would help in terms of clearing up the onerous task of signing in to new networks every single time,” Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch writes. “And for Google, it means getting users more friction-free access to their Google accounts and services, which has obvious benefits in terms of its ad recommendation engines and products.”
Google isn’t the only one trying to break into the small-business Wi-Fi market: Facebook announced a partnership with Netgear earlier this year to let small businesses provide customers with free Wi-Fi access in exchange for checking in to a business Facebook Page.
Despite the obvious benefits to Google of offering cheap business Wi-Fi, many small-business owners will likely embrace the opportunity to offer Wi-Fi to their customers at a low cost. A recent survey conducted by Time Warner Cable found that 80 percent of small businesses think their customers expect free Wi-Fi, but only 43 percent of businesses offer it.
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