Wibiki Strives for Wi-Fi Ubiquity
February 28, 2006
The vision: let everyone from home users to business travelers avoid the toll booths on their wireless Internet surfing.
Earlier this year, New York City-based Speedus Corp. began the public beta testing of its free Wi-Fi access service, Wibiki. Launched as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Speedus, Wibiki (pronounced why-BIH-kee) aims to make it easier, safer, and more affordable to share Wi-Fi access.
Were very excited about our vision for Wibiki, says company CEO Shant Hovnanian. Wi-Fi is a great place to be for our company, and we think theres tremendous opportunity in free wireless, and leveraging what we think is a unique business model to help users take advantage of these services.
While the specifics of that business model remain unannounced, Wibikis launch was greeted early on with some skepticism. On the day of its beta launch, one expert likened Wibikis approach to that of several failed ventures, and equated it with Fon.
Hovnanian thinks such criticisms are prematureand off base.
I dont think anyone can criticize a business model that hasnt been launched yet, he says. We are so different from Fon. They are certainly out there putting toll booths on top of peoples routers, but thats not what were doing. Were safety, security, and 100 percent free. They have announced a certain component that says its free, but I dont know if thats a goal that can be achieved under their business model. In our case, it is.
The plan for generating revenue at Wibiki is based on ad sales, which the company says will not include pop-ups or splash pages. By employing an "ad chooser" technology, Wibiki intends to offer advertising that has been tailored to suit the location and the interests of the users viewing it. According to Hovnanian, the Wibiki plan does not employ tracking technology, nor does it resemble any sales method currently in place.
Its an opt-in basis, he says. Its about your choice as a user in seeing what advertising comes to you. Theres a number of different flavors of the advertising as it rolls out. It could be contextual, or on what you actually input in order to receive the stuff you want.
Wibiki, which is shorthand for Wi-Fi ubiquity, has as its mission the rapid expansion of secure, free, broadband Wi-Fi access, and counts itself as part of the Free Wi-Fi Movement.
The spectrum thats used for Wi-Fi is an unlicensed spectrum, says Hovnanian. Its free. I believe the intention of the FCC when they put it out there was that users could use it for free. There are a lot of people putting up toll booths trying to take advantage of that spectrum and creating small islands. We think there is a better way. It doesnt mean that we wont profit from it, but you as a user dont have to spend dollars out of your pocket. Its a tremendous goal that we have here at the companycreating a sense of community. Communities within a large community, or a large community itself is a goal.
Wibikis product is not targeted at any specific demographic within the world of Wi-Fi users. The company believes that its product can benefit home, business, municipal and public hotspot users. Aside from the obvious perks of being free, Wibiki hopes to set itself apart by providing superior security solutions.
Because were enabling security functions inside of the router, the client-based security that weve developed makes you a lot safer being in the wireless mode, says Hovnanian.
Since a vast majority of home access points remain open, Wibikis tactic is to secure those access points using its technology to enable the existing functions already inside most routers.
We dont flash routers on the router side, explains Hovnanian. We merely enable already available security features that the routers are shipped with. We dont, therefore, conflict with any of the warranties that the manufacturers give with those routers. Were not going in and changing the original manufacturers intended use of their product. Were enabling already available functions inside of that box.
If all goes according to plan, users will soon begin to download the Wibiki client to their routers and to their laptops (or desktops) in droves. Compatible with Macs and PCs, the laptop/desktop client seeks out Wibiki-configured routers to which it can securely connect. For home users with their own routers, that connection will be consistent and automatic. For those in other environmentstravelers, those using public spots, or home users who want to share with their neighborsthe client will show all available networks, open and closed. If theres a network with a Wibiki-configured router available, the client will want to put users on that one automatically.
Its about ease of use -- were a connection manager for you, says Hovnanian. The Wibiki client is a tool for all Wi-Fi users to help you find and connect to available Wi-Fi spots.