Eircom cuts hotspot prices

29 Jul 2005

Eircom is cutting its wireless broadband hotspot price in a move it claims will result in savings up to 70pc. The news coincides with research from iReach, which suggests only 16pc of consumers are willing to pay a one-time usage fee for hotspot access in commercial establishments in Ireland.

Once a hotspot subscription order has been placed with Eircom, subscribers will be issued with a unique username and password that will provide access to all Eircom wireless hotspots. There is no minimum contract period for the subscription and the fee is added to customers existing Eircom phone bill, the company says.

Under the new scratch card structure wireless users can avail of 30 minutes of wireless access for €3, one hour for €5 compared with the previous €10 price, 24 hours for €15 compared with the old price of €20 and seven days for €30.

In addition to using scratch cards, Eircom offers monthly subscriptions for €12.10 (incl Vat) for Eircom broadband customers and €30.25 (incl Vat) for Eircom’s fixed-line customers. This means Eircom customers can now avail of unlimited broadband access from 0.35 cent per day, the company claims.

Eircom’s commercial director David McRedmond commented: “Today’s announcement is another step to stimulate broadband usage by providing customers with convenient, fast and inexpensive access to broadband through wireless hotspots.”

Eircom’s network of public wireless hotspots includes more than 327 locations including Dublin Airport, Croke Park, 51 McDonald’s restaurants, numerous hotels, conference centres and 141 public payphones throughout the country.

According to research from iReach, the three main Wi-Fi hotspot vendors in Ireland are Eircom, BT and Bitbuzz. Based on a survey of 100 consumers, only 16pc are willing to pay a one-time usage fee for hotspot access in public places.

Wireless laptops in Ireland exceed 150,000, while GPRS enabled laptops exceed 10,000. iReach says significant savings can be made by organisations standardising on hotspot usage for business travelers both here and overseas.

The iReach survey identified four main types of wireless internet user — the business traveller (with a PDA), the road warrior (on the road with a laptop, likely to have a GPRS card), the wireless junkie (self-employed professional with a mobile office, serial hotspot user), the wireless wannabe (would use hotspots but lacks the kit).

The survey warned existing price plans currently do not match the ad-hoc needs of hotspot users in commercial locations.

It also predicted hotspots in Ireland will exceed 1,000 by the middle of 2006, with the potential to grow to 5,000 by the end of 2008.

The report’s author Brian Foley explains: “Organisations with many business travellers should approach the main hotspot providers and look to build exclusive commercial agreements to use a single supplier for all hotspot access, to maximise the cost benefit and standardise on purchasing laptops and notebooks, which are wireless enabled.

“From our survey we see a gap between the flexibility and available price plans with hotspot usage requirements. While staying in a hotel, business travellers and wireless road warriors may have the requirement to use a number of hotspot hours. In commercial locations, such as coffee shops, shorter access is the norm.

“The findings strongly indicate the current and potential hotspot users are more willing to purchase products at locations where Wi-Fi is available over locations where Wi-Fi is not available. While they are less willing to pay for hotspot usage on top of their purchase, they are more willing to purchase additional product while surfing the internet to download emails.

“While there is a very thin line between paying €3.50 for a coffee and €5 for 30 minutes hotspot usage, the perception is hotspot access in a commercial location is now part of the service. Offering coupons or tickets with a purchase is currently the best way to address this perception,” said Foley.

By John Kennedy