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  • Mark Middleton

App-Sponsored Wi-Fi Connectivity Driving Eyeballs and Usage

InterDigital Labs VP, Narayan Menon, aptly explains, in a recent Venture Beat post, the reason for the rise in popularity of app-sponsored Wi-Fi networks:

The best way to expand a user base is to offer unique value…, and free [Wi-Fi] connectivity is highly valued among consumers.

In a world where mobile subscribers are worried about data caps and overage, giving someone free Wi-Fi access in consideration for them using or downloading your app is appreciated and valued as a fair deal. Not only does usage result in more downloads of the sponsoring app, but it is likely to result in more users of that app, and therefore more eyeballs on advertisements (making them more valuable) in the app and better usage stats for the app to monetise. All this leads to an increase in market share for the app.

With so many applications launching and fighting for attention, what better way to promote a new app than to be the gateway to free Wi-Fi?

A key consideration for any app sponsor of a Wi-Fi network is whether to limit the free connectivity to just connectivity for the app in question, or whether to provide blanket free connectivity. To limit it is, as SnapChat recently found out, a mistake:

The popular social app SnapChat recently made a good effort at leveraging sponsored connectivity. The company provided app users attending [a 140,000-person electronic music festival in Las Vegas], with access to free Wi-Fi connectivity. However, the connectivity was only available within the SnapChat and official [festival application]. While the plan was good in theory, it backfired.

Wi-Fi access, sponsored or otherwise, should be unfettered. Subscribers should, once they have connected to the free Wi-Fi and provided that they have downloaded and opened the app in question, be able to then freely use their devices, whether it be for email, social media, messaging, browsing etc. The utility of the app-sponsored Wi-Fi network should not be restricted to the point where the value to the end user is diminished or the user is left frustrated by forced restrictions on their ability to use other apps on their device (as was the case with SnapChat’s unfortunate experiment.

From there, it’s up to the app to ensure that it is interesting and relevant to drive usage and uptake. In other words, for app developers, app-sponsored Wi-Fi will get them the interview, but it wont guarantee them the job.

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