Imagine you could make money, just from your business having strong, reliable Wi-Fi – At the same time as offering customers better mobile reception inside your venue.
Google’s Area 120, an in-house incubator, has recently launched Orion Wi-Fi in the US which will enable public venues like shopping centres, grocery stores, shops, restaurants, conference venues etc to offer those using a smartphone the opportunity to automatically connect to their Wi-Fi via their mobile provider, to get better reception.
Google Orion acts as the intermediary between the public venue and the mobile provider, ascertaining whether the price and the signal strength is worth giving their customers access.
Why would mobile providers want to do this for their customers?
You may be wondering why mobile providers would decide to pay a public venue for their customers to use the Wi-Fi available.
Often, public venues like grocery stores, shopping centres and conference venues don’t have great 3G/4G/5G reception for those wishing to use their smartphones.
For customers to get better coverage direct, mobile providers would have to install more masts to try and cover these areas, which of course costs money.
An easier and cheaper alternative is to pay the public venue for their customers to use their Wi-Fi. The end user’s device would be picked up by Google Orion, which performs a rapid negotiation of cost and Wi-Fi strength between the venue and the mobile provider. The device would then automatically connect to the venues Wi-Fi upon entrance giving better reception.
The end user doesn’t drop their signal and remains happy with their mobile provider.
How would this Wi-Fi offload scheme work for public venues?
This Google Orion Wi-Fi device could be the first step towards indoor wireless communication being everywhere you go. And with public venues being paid for making their Wi-Fi available to mobile providers and their customers, there is even more reason to make sure your public Wi-Fi is up to scratch.
If you are a public venue and would like to make your Wi-Fi available to anyone with a smartphone walking into your business, you would sign up to become part of the Orion Wi-Fi service via their new portal.
You would connect via your Google account and then set up Orion Wi-Fi to work with your Wi-Fi network. According to Google, it is set to work with most commercial and enterprise Wi-Fi systems including the majority of AP’s and Wi-Fi controllers.
This isn’t yet in the UK, but presumably a person entering your venue on a participating mobile provider contract would then be able to connect automatically to your Wi-Fi. They would be happy that they have a good connection, associating your brand with good reception, the mobile provider would be happy that their customer can stay connected indoors, and you as a venue would be happy as you would be paid for making it available.
Current issues with Wi-Fi offloading
There are generally two main problems with Wi-Fi offloading:
– The quality of the Wi-Fi – It’s not great if end-users are handed over from their patchy mobile network to a bad quality Wi-Fi option instead.
– Connecting – End-users may be unlikely to spend time manually connecting to a different network when entering some public venues.
In theory, Google Orion addresses both of these issues and so it wouldn’t be surprising if every mobile provider would be interested. The prospect is that this could make Wi-Fi roaming even more powerful.
Are there any negatives to using Google Orion Wi-Fi?
ne plus about venues offering their own Wi-Fi portals to guests is the opportunity to collect data and engage new people. If they were to give up this chance to collect contact details and other personal information about their guests that they could use for future marketing purposes, they would need the appropriate compensation via payment from the mobile provider.
Of course, what would be even better, is if Google Orion Wi-Fi later offered both – Guest engagement and auto-connect. Maybe that will come.
Exciting developments on the horizon for new Wi-Fi technology
With current developments in the Wi-Fi industry starting to trickle through, it wouldn’t surprise us if there was real demand for Google Orion Wi-Fi.
With the arrival of a new Wi-Fi standard (Wi-Fi 6) as well as a wider Wi-Fi spectrum (1.2GHz in the 6GHz band), it would make perfect sense to offload mobile customers struggling with indoor reception onto reliable public Wi-Fi.
We’re hearing lots about 5G, but it will inevitably have difficulty reaching all indoor users as well as indoor cellular 5G systems being expensive.
Perhaps, as Google have intimated, now is the perfect time for a paradigm shift to Wi-Fi.
You can read more about it on the Google Orion Wi-Fi website here.