Wireless Internet provider Tomizone is near completion of its pilot with Skype to provide free Wi-Fi connectivity across 15 sites in Australia and New Zealand.
According to the CEO of Tomizone, Steve Simms, the results from the pilot exceeded expectations all around.
"We kicked it off in mid-February and finished it at the close of June. We are currently analysing the results with Skype and Microsoft. We would have been happy if we had doubled the numbers on the trial hotspots. We have far exceeded that.
"We would have been happy if a small percentage of them downloaded the Skype Wi-Fi app, and we have exceed that. So obviously the acceptance of the brand, of Skype and Tomizone, to run a free Wi-Fi service exists," says Simms.
The launch of a full service, however, is dependent on several factors and Tomizone is currently working with Skype to look into the possibility of a partnership.
"It is more 'if' we launch it, rather than 'when'. Skype is just one potential partner. There are many other partners out there that want to look at this software platform we have got and how it works," says Simms.
The company, which is currently providing managed services to customers in more than 108 countries, is also on an aggressive growth path that will see it double its staff strength in the next 18 months, and tap into global capital to back it up. It is also looking to confirm a global distributor by the end of the year.
“Our teams are going to grow considerably. We have essentially got our plan very well mapped out for the next 18 months [on] where we are going to go with the team sizing. We will be basing people under centres of excellence where our global distributor partners and our partner customers are going to be, and they would be doing mostly sales, provisioning and support.
He says the R&D hub and product centre of excellence will remain in New Zealand. “We will probably be also looking at replicating some of that stuff up in the US, as well. But primarily all of our main stuff will come out of here.
“We are currently doing some funding rounds out of Australia. From there we will be looking at other offshore markets to fund us. Our next round is likely to be completed by the end of October this year,” Simms adds.
Calling NZ the Silicon Valley of the South Pacific, Simms believes that ICT firms in the country are attracting a lot more capital and the next few years will see more money flowing in from offshore, especially Australia.
Speaking to Computerworld NZ Simms elaborated on the evolution of Wi-Fi connectivity in the country, and the prospect of ubiquitous Wi-Fi provisioning outside the home and work place.
“In this market what we have been told by the telcos is that a lot of people are on prepaid plans, and they are on low volume 3G, 4G plans. These people look for free Wi-Fi. They barely use their plans. Free Wi-Fi is their lifeblood outside of their home and work.
"That is why that tactic can be so successful. NZ is waking up to this now and we are seeing a number of our customers convert to those supported free Wi-Fi scenarios."
Hotels, motels and other accommodation businesses are also moving away from charging for Wi-Fi to making it free for customers, Simms says.
"Accommodation providers have always provided free hot water, free lights, free bed as long as you pay for the room. Therefore, other amenities like free TV and free Internet should also be included in the amenities. So those are the things that they are grappling with as an industry."
Simms warns firms that are moving towards providing free Wi-Fi about the dangers in using a simple access point with unlimited broadband.
“The problem with just sticking up an access point and keeping that on unlimited plan is that what you will have is two points of vulnerabilities. The first point is the interception stuff – the cyber security element – and making sure users are downloading something dodgy. That is circumnavigated by using systems like Tomizone that does all the content filtering," he says.
“The management in the background is the second part of that story. Because once I have got my free Wi-Fi connection open to my unlimited plan, what happens when I have 50 people walk in through the door? Using a managed platform gives more quality of service operation or priority of service makes the experience better for the user."
Simms says people are starting to realise that it is better to offer some quality Wi-Fi and create a good, quality experience between the customer and them.
"It is a bit of an evolution and we are at that point now in New Zealand,” he adds.