Dublin-based firm finds its Edge in the Wi-Fi business

13 Mar 2008

A Dublin-headquartered Wi-Fi provider that provides free wireless broadband services using a unique commercial model has now reached 500,000 user sessions across Europe.

Free-hotspot.com, which has 69 hotspots live in Ireland, earlier this year reported it grew 400pc in 2007 with 2,400 hotspots deployed across 18 European countries. The company’s network grew from 600 hotspots at the start of 2007 to 2,400 by the end of the year.

Free-hotspot.com’s vice-president of business development, Joe Brunoli, said the company is changing its business model to include branded messaging within its service, in addition to its advertising model.

The initial model involved users agreeing to watch a 20-second advertisement before enjoying an hour of Wi-Fi.

Under the new model, Brunoli explained, hotel owners and venue managers will be able to insert their own message, advertisement or survey before the Wi-Fi session begins.

“The reason we’re calling it Edge is because it provides the ability to sell ads at the pre-authorisation stage, before the user gets online, at the ‘edge’ of the internet.

“Rather than have the user watch an ad, a hotel owner can have users fill in a questionnaire before their session begins.”

Brunoli said at present 40pc of the company’s installation base are hotels and 30pc are restaurants and cafes.

“Venues can also sequence messages. If the user signs in for a second hour they can see a different ad or fill in a different questionnaire.”

Brunoli said free-hotspot.com currently employs 13 people in Dublin to run its European business but does most of its R&D in California.

Free-hotspot.com, which is funded by Irish American businessman Daniel C Toomey, offers free Wi-Fi access in cafes, hotels, pubs, restaurants, retail centres and transit centres around the world.

The company’s Irish operation, which is based on Merchants Quay, works with local, multinational and national advertisers and agencies to develop online marketing programmes and initiatives intended to reach Wi-Fi users through ‘onsite’ advertising channels.

Brunoli said the company wants to capture the European market before it considers exporting the model back to the US.

By John Kennedy