Facebook-powered Wi-Fi hotspot goes live in Dublin

25 Jan 2014

Social networking giant Facebook has deployed a public Wi-Fi hotspot in Ireland at Kaph, a specialty coffee shop on Dublin’s Drury Street.

Facebook is deploying Wi-Fi hotspots with Cisco-owned Meraki as a means of leveraging its social graph and experimenting with location-based advertising technologies.

It is understood to be the second such public hotspot established by the social networking giant in Dublin: Coffee Angel on Pembroke Street in May.

The social network will offer free internet access to users in return for a simple “check in” via their wireless device.

 “We didn’t see any point in charging our clientele for Wi-Fi, but we liked the idea of getting something in return, a little bit of digital love: Likes and the likes,” said Kaph owner Chris Keegan.   

“At first we thought customers might not be comfortable revealing their whereabouts just to get online, but in fact they understand that they are getting something of value and a simple ‘I’m at Kaph’ is seen as a fair trade in a Fair Trade coffee world!  We’ve seen a sixfold increase in check-ins since installing the Facebook system.”

Kaph coffee’s hotspot was installed by the proprietor Chris Keegan’s cousin Ronan Higgins, who was a pioneer in public Wi-Fi after setting up the first Wi-Fi hotspot network in California in 2001.

“It’s funny to think that Facebook didn’t even exist when I set up the original Cafe.com Wi-Fi hotspot network,” said Ronan.

“As public Wi-Fi evolved we saw a rapid increase in free, open access points that challenged the business model.  However, now that smartphones and social networking are ubiquitous, there’s an opportunity to leverage free Internet in return for social news feed space.  Facebook News Feed recommendations have value.”

Facebook Wi-Fi’s entry into the Irish market could be a threat to established Wi-Fi network providers like Bitbuzz, MyPlaceConnect and Eircom.  However, these networks are evolving into being offload alternatives for congested 3G and 4G mobile operators.  Offload is a business model Facebook Wi-Fi is unlikely to pursue.

Social networking image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years