Does your local pub have WiFi? It's free…
Chips and Alcohol
Well, the simple answer, according to Brian Parker, marketing director of Wialess, is - I do. I bought a meal and a drink which Barneys wouldn't otherwise have sold.
Wialess provides free Internet over wireless to pub customers.
Parker told us that he now has the three first sites - all in St Albans - all working, with absolutely no fee to the user, and a cost to the pub operator of around ten pounds a day - or less.
"Our managing director, Jonathan Shreeves, is also boss of Hunston Properties, and they have been selling new homes as 'Internet ready' buildings, with Cat5 cabling. They called our technical director in to demonstrate WiFi technology, and suddenly realised that this would let them provide Internet to home buyers for much less. And then we started looking for other sites..."
That's pretty much the story. My plan, in the future, is to print Wialess business cards, and leave them behind the bar of every pub I drink in.
The deal is pretty good, after all. The pub gets broadband installed, without having to do it all themselves (they pay the broadband) and they get "behind-the-bar" laptop computer for visitors who didn't know there was Internet access, and who will now come back and use it another time. If they sell three extra pints a day, they're breaking even.
The system has worked brilliantly for Barneys. Tourists come to St Albans (Roman Verulamium) all the time, and then head to the local tourist Information office to find out where the nearest Internet cafe is. "There isn't one; but now, the tourist office can point these Japanese, or American, or European tourists to one of three restaurant/bar sites, where they can plug in their digital cameras, and send pictures back home right away - while they eat or drink. They are seeing customers they never saw before."
In fact, Barneys reckons they get so much extra traffic, they needed an extra laptop behind the bar, because the one was in use too often. And to be honest, they could do a lot better, because they did have a lot of point-of-sale publicity - little table mount mini-posters which tell how to access the Internet (turn the PC on) and how much it costs (nothing) but they've all ended up in the dish-washer.
It makes nonsense of the claims of people like BT and Megabeam, who claim to have "ownership of all major sites" with their service, charging around 50 pounds a month for a subscription. BT Retail provides little scratch-card access cards for two pounds; they probably make less on the deal than Wialess makes on the pub meals.