Wi-Fi providers expand hunt for resellers

Two of the country’s public wireless hotspot providers are stepping up their reseller network efforts as the race to spread Wi-Fi adoption heats up. One has opened a new channel, while another is pondering surgery.

In Ottawa, BoldStreet Wireless Internet (www.boldstreet.com) announced it has

added a new channel to its distribution program.

BoldStreet originally aimed to sell its turnkey Wi-Fi (802.11) product strictly through Internet Service Providers, who would be charged with signing up locations and installing a wireless router and high-speed Internet connection in hotels, cafes and restaurants.

But after announcing the ISP program earlier this summer the company heard from other firms interested in selling its service as well, according to president Tom Camps.

So BoldStreet has set up a registered sales agent program for “”people who have several cell phone stores, a network consultant or somebody who’s got a bunch of things in their sales bag they sell when they walk into a small business,”” said Camps.

“”We expect the agent has an on-going relationship with the hotspot,”” he said. “”This isn’t a dash and sell kind of relationship. We fully expect an agent will maintain that relationship and service that account, making sure point-of-sales materials are up to speed and the hotspot operator is happy.””

One of the first BoldStreet sales agents is Calgary’s Media Voice Communications, whose products until now have been broadband appliances like IP-based video phones and network video cameras.

But company director Doug Bowman believes wireless will help spread the popularity of broadband Internet access.

“”If positioned properly there will be a really enthusiastic buy-in,”” he said of the hotspot concept.

To help sign up locations, BoldStreet has been offering users free wireless service until the end of September. Until then, its sales agents will get a $100 commission for every hotspot pulled in. After that users begin paying ($9.95 for a day’s access). Agents will get a minimum 7 per cent of wireless revenue generated, Camps said, a commission which can be increased depending on how much work servicing accounts the agent promises to do.

He hopes to have 150 ISPs and agents signed by March.

Meanwhile Vancouver-based FatPort (www.fatport.com) announced it has signed up a New Brunswick ISP, SYLC Solutions Inc., to extend its network of service providers to the Atlantic.

One of the few Canadian providers already charging users for access (for example, $5 for one hour, $34.95 a month unlimited), FatPort has 80 hotspots and 2,000 paying customers, according to Michael Kuhlmann, FatPort’s vice-president of business development.

However, he said its two-level reseller model may have to be revamped. Channel partners like ISPs and integrators resell FatPort-assembled hardware to locations and get a share of ongoing wireless revenue. Virtual hotspot operators, such as cell phone companies, set up their own hotspots and have their own branded product using FatPort hardware and software. They get a bigger slice of wireless revenue than channel partners.

But, he said, the ISP/integrator channel has been only “”marginally effective.””

“”There’s been a varying degree of quality of those, we’ve found over time, and it behooves us to look at that model more closely and figure out if it’s worth doing, or does it need tweaking to be more effective.””

In another sign of the increased interest in public hotspots, Sony of Canada announced this week a promotion with BoldStreet, FatPort and Spotnik Mobile Inc.

Buyers of Sony’s CLIé PEG-UX50 handheld organizer will receive 30 days of free hotspot service from the three providers if the purchase is made before Oct. 31.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including ITBusiness.ca. Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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