As Wi-Fi hotspots increase, small businesses across the UK are waking up to the benefits of offering free internet access.
Any cafe that puts up a sign offering free goods usually does so with trepidation: what if the rush is too great and it costs more to offer than it brings in?
But for Derek Thompson, the proprietor of Gluttons cafe in the Essex market town of Saffron Walden, east of London, there was no such worry. For the past 18 months, he has been offering free wireless web access at the cafe — prompted initially by customers who noticed that there was a Wi-Fi network and asked for the password.
Thompson’s cafe is one of the growing number of small businesses that have opened up their high-speed connection to customers free of charge, as more and more people own smartphones able to send and receive e-mail and browse the web.
As the economic clouds darken, they have discovered that the Internet is the equivalent of the never-ending coffee cup, only better: it doesn’t require heating, barely needs any electricity and doesn’t interfere with the normal run of business, just enhances it.
“Being an ‘eatery’ rather than a restaurant, we wanted to get the early morning people who will often sit here for a bit and deal with business things,” said Thompson. With, of course, a cup of coffee and perhaps a slice of cake.
More and more food outlets are now discovering that a sign in the window, which simply proclaims FREE WI-FI, can pull customers in.
As per the Informa Telecoms & Media, an analyst company, while the number of “premium” Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK grew from 33,000 in 2010 to 54,000 in 2011, so did the proportion that are free - from 40% to 45%; from 13,200 to 24,300, an increase of 84%.
Certainly, the rise of the smartphone has driven the demand for fast, free connections everywhere. Customers are increasingly eager to seek out the oasis of a guaranteed connection that won’t count against their monthly data allowance. Guardian