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On March 26, AT&T announced a new service called AT&T Wi-Fi – Small Site (AWSS). The service comes in two flavors – starter and standard. The key aspect of both services is that AT&T will provide the businesses with a Wi-Fi access point that will not only be a public location on AT&T's national Wi-Fi network, but also a private and secure Wi-Fi network for the business location. Through helping small businesses create their own Wi-Fi networks, AT&T is also expanding the Wi-Fi network it provides to its subscribers.

AWSS helps both AT&T and its business customers

With the starter package of AWSS the business gets a private Wi-Fi network, an AT&T branded network, the ability to change the private network password, marketing space on the public Wi-Fi login screen, and some public user data. The standard package comes with everything found in the starter package along with LTE backup for the private Wi-Fi network in case the fixed broadband connection goes down, a public network completely branded by the business, network filtering and user control, and more public user data. With both options, AT&T provides a free-of-charge Wi-Fi access point, 24x7 technical support, and marketing in terms of decals to advertise the location as well as listing the location as part of AT&T's national network of Wi-Fi access points. Currently only businesses using an AT&T fixed broadband connection with a minimum speed of 6Mbps are eligible, but AT&T has said that later this year it will offer service to businesses using broadband from other service providers with a 6Mbps-or-better connection. The monthly fee for standard service is $15–20. The $5 discount goes to customers who get AT&T voice service with their AT&T broadband service. Starter service has no monthly fee. It will be $30/month for non-broadband subscribers.

One of the most important and difficult things in building a nationwide Wi-Fi network is footprint (currently at over 34,000 locations for AT&T). AWSS will certainly help AT&T with its Wi-Fi footprint. AT&T wisely has gone about this in a manner where it and the business both benefit. Small businesses benefit by having Wi-Fi to attract customers and extend their visits. They also benefit by having AT&T market their location as part of AT&T's Wi-Fi network. The starter package should have wide appeal, as it costs nothing and comes with a free access point. The standard offering will obviously encounter more resistance from customers as it comes with a monthly fee, but service continuity though LTE backup is an attractive feature that shouldn't be overlooked. Also, the extra user information that comes with the standard package could help in monetizing the public network. A bigger immediate issue for AT&T is the current limit of only offering this to its fixed broadband subscribers who have a minimum connection speed of 6Mbps. Companies with nationwide footprints may opt instead to look at something like the Netgear/Facebook Wi-Fi offering, which doesn't come with this gating factor.


Further reading

Public WLAN Hotspots, 4Q14, TE0006-001026 (March 2015)

"Public Wi-Fi hotspot numbers approach 7 million at end-2014," TE0006-001027 (March 2015)


Daryl Schoolar, Principal Analyst, Intelligent Networks

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