My business is in a shopping mall next to a coffee shop that offers paid T-Mobile wireless access. I'd like to take advantage of all the traffic by offering cheaper wireless access.
My question is, what's the easiest way to get set up with an entry page and credit card billing? I've been considering dns redirector but it looks like significant work to set it up. Is there a solution that does NOT require an in-house server?
- this way you can use any Windows PC and any wireless access point/router hardware.
Consider providing access entirely for free, use the splash page to refer people to your business, perhaps provide a coupon - your revenue should continue to be based on the primary product/service you sell, use the free wifi to supplement that rather than trying to sell wifi access.
Hmmm ... interesting idea. I take all the revenue away from the other HotSpot providers and don't get any myself either, in return for making people aware of my business that's next door to the coffee shop where they're drinking coffee.
Well, if you're looking for sources of revenue, might as well make lemonade out of lemons. The lemons are the non-revenue generating customers that monopolize a table with their laptops, sipping on cup one coffee for many hours. If you find yourself short on available tables for paying customers, a quick look at what the laptop users are buying should offer a clue.
However, all is not lost. In some countries (France) customers rent tables in coffee shops and use them for an office. I've considered renting one for my own business as I could easily deal with spyware removal and Windoze updates any place I have a high speed connection. I rent a table in your establishment, put up a small sign offering my services, and the coffee shop gets some more revenue. I'll leave the rate structure to your imagination.
Even if you don't decide to rent tables, it would be interesting to add it to the rate card. That should give the table hogs a clue as to what's expected. You might also want to add "wireless tech support" to the menu as answering question about the wireless might be a problem.
Now, if you want publicity, consider charging for the use of the wireless by the pound. Put a weight scale at the counter, weigh the PDA or laptop, and charge proportionally on the logic that heavy weight laptops occupy more table space and should therefore pay more. That should get your coffee shop mentioned in the local newspapers just prior to you discontinuing the practice.
As for free wireless, I'm all in favor of having someone else pay for my connectivity. It doesn't really matter whom as long as it's not me.
Another joy of free and open wireless is the neighbors and freeloaders. I was at a local coffee and munchie place last night and noticed 3 cars across the street, with drivers in the front seat, banging on their laptops. Obviously, they didn't buy anything. They just wanted to use the free wireless. Same with the nearby neighbors. One of the hot spots I help maintain has a little monitor routine I scribbled. It displays the connection count. The owner then counts physical laptops in the coffee shop. Invariably, there are more connections than visible customers with laptops, usually in the parking lot. Perhaps this might be a clue as to why few businesses offer free wireless.
Oh, whatever you do, make sure you have "client isolation" or some similar feature enabled. (Linksys calls it "AP isolation"). This will prevent wireless clients from seeing each other so that you don't have someone walk in with a laptop full of viruses and attack everyone elses laptop in the shop.
Lots of good food for thought there. What concerns me too, is that freebie users are more likely than others to download porn or do illegal things that can't be traced to them but you betcha can be traced to my IP.
I don't think you have to worry about that for user in the coffee shop. However, users in the parking lot and nearby neighbors are a different story. However, there are problems with peer to peer users downloading DVD images at free hotspots.
Some of the measures used by various coffee shops to control access are:
Password from the counter, that must be entered on the initial splash or signon page which changes every hour or two. The idea is that even someone that buys something, will need a new password every hour. One shop just has a bunch of kids spelling flash cards posted every hour or so when it changes.
WPA key that changes every day. Usually posted inside the coffee shop where only the patrons can see it.
Drastically reduced TX power on the access point.
Distance measuring devices that can tell if the client is inside the coffee shop or outside the building. I worked on one of these devices. Not available yet.
Turn off the wireless after 6PM. One local bar does this to clear the wireless table hogs as things get busy.
Download quotas and QoS. These are rule based quotas for what an individual client may download. QoS is also good for preventing a user from hogging all your bandwidth. However, administration is tricky and there are ways around quotas.
...because it is practical and realistic... Many people who operate paid HotSpots hype that it's working for them only cause they want others to be paid HotSpots - the fact is most people are not going to pay for it. Your business is (selling coffee, or bowling, or a train station, or whatever) NOT selling Internet on a temporary basis for a rather small chunk of time out of someone's day. You should focus on your business and your primary objectives - if selling Internet was one of them, and you thought you would be any good at it, then you should be working for T-mobile or some other paid HotSpot provider. Simply put, don't fall into some false expectation that offering paid Internet access is going to make you lots of money, or even help your failing business - use the free internet acecss to supplement and encourage people to your primary business.
Remember that if you are providing paid Internet access, then people are going to expect certain things for something they paid for - such as tech support. Are you prepared/going to take the time out of your primary business activities to help soccer mom's configure their PCs, help them download stuff, or check email, etc? Having it free eliminates your responsibility in that big "headache"
Just because it's free doesn't mean random people who have not purchased something from you should get to use it - find a way to provide it free - think of it as a "reward" or "courtesy" to those who do buy from you. They will remember it, and as a result you will have the best kind of customer, a repeat customer.
similar feature enabled.
...this can be accomplished on the Linksys WRT54G(L) devices under Blocked Services (ports 135 to 139, and 445) Don't get too carried away with this, some people may WANT to connect with other users to play games, etc. ...of course you could make the argument that they should create thier own Ad-Hoc network then.
download porn or do illegal things that can't be traced to them but you betcha can be traced to my IP.
...thats why you use DNS Redirector to prevent that.
best idea, and yeah DNS Redirector can do that.
...but some might not want to devote thier time, or paying thier consultant $$ to do this. Also, typing in stuff can be hard for some techno-challenged people. You need to devote time to running your business, not helping soccer mom's get connected or thier machine re-configured every time you change it.
This has bad ramifications, I know your thought was it prevents people using it from beyond the cafe walls, but if there are many users within the cafe walls this can cause problems.
Not wide-spread commercially available yet, but some access points with AutoCell technology can do this. I have seen a calculation that can be done to determine the distance from the antenna, but most rooms aren't a perfect circle. Hey, you there in the corner, step into the sweet spot :-/
DNS Redirector can do this automatically.
Cisco PIX 515+ and Linksys WRT54G(L) devices can do this.
Nope. Blocking those ports will prevent users from using those ports to access the internet. It has no effect on the client to client bridging on the wireless size. For that, you need "client isolation" which prevents *ALL* traffic between wireless connected (bridged) clients. See the check box labeled "AP isolation" at:
download porn or do illegal things that can't be traced to them but you betcha can be traced to my IP.
DNS Redirector maintains a blacklist (block list) of evil web sites and banned words. My personal experience with blacklists has been rather dismal. The usual problem in a coffee shop environment are customers that complain "I paid you for wireless service and now you're playing censor".
've installed two blacklist services on free hot spots and had to remove the blacklists after about a month of complaints.
Incidentally, my own web site
is often blocked and listed as an "ultra-violence" site because of the word "destroying" in the URL.
[Cut-n-pasteing my comments so I know what you're talking about]
|1. Password from the counter, that must be entered on the initial |splash or signon page which changes every hour or two. The idea is |that even someone that buys something, will need a new password every |hour. One shop just has a bunch of kids spelling flash cards posted |every hour or so when it changes.
It's a pain to administer. A friend had to write scripts that would expire and change the necessary cookie in order for this to work. An automated electronic sign would insure that the new password was properly posted at the exact correct time. When things get busy, there's usually a problem getting the new password posted. The one place I know that uses this method posts the current and the next passwords to avoid disruptions. It was fairly easy to re-authenticate with popups, but some of the better popup blockers ruined that method.
|2. WPA key that changes every day. Usually posted inside the coffee |shop where only the patrons can see it.
It's actually quite simple with Windoze Wireless Zero Config. It asks for a password and you type in the key. When they come in the next day, the problem is that one has to clear out the previous days settings or stupid Windoze WZC tries to connect with the previous days WPA key. Other wireless clients vary in the way they handle changes in WPA key. It is a potential problem for the user, but not fatal.
|3. Drastically reduced TX power on the access point.
This is the most common ploy locally. I know of 6 local shops that do this. I've tested the coverage in all of them and they are more than adequate. However, there's a trick. I fix the access point speed at
12Mbits/sec OFDM (with 802.11b compatibility enabled) so that the relatively weak signal doesn't cause the client radios to constantly change speed. Nobody even notices or complains. However, Netstumbler and Kismet can barely see it in the parking lot or houses. Someone with a high gain directional antenna could probably make a useful connection, but after hours wireless access is disabled so that's improbable.
|4. Distance measuring devices that can tell if the client is inside |the coffee shop or outside the building. I worked on one of these |devices. Not available yet.
No, AutoCell and Ekahau cannot do this. AutoCell runs by polling "autocell enhanced" access points using SNMP and extracting the signal strength. To obtain the location, it does an impressive job of using inverse square law and the signal strength to estimate the location. With 3 or more access points, it can nail it to within a 1 meter radius. The purpose of Autocell is to reduce mutual interference and optimize frequency selection, not act as range filter.
The coffee shops are not going to install 3 access points in order to keep the freeloaders out. A high gain directional antenna can easily confuse the access points thanks to multiple internal reflections.
|5. Turn off the wireless after 6PM. One local bar does this to clear |the wireless table hogs as things get busy.
So can an AC power timer.
|6. Download quotas and QoS. These are rule based quotas for what an |individual client may download. QoS is also good for preventing a |user from hogging all your bandwidth. However, administration is |tricky and there are ways around quotas.
Sorta. The QoS in these is easily defeated by spoofing client MAC addresses. The algorithms are overly simplistic for what I think is necessary. Something like the DirecWay or HughesNet FAP (fair access policy) is necessary. You get to download XX MBytes within XX minutes. After that, you slow down XX percent, but never hit zero. Some detail:
gets really complex quickly when dealing what users perceive as their "right" to download. For example, we have a substantial number of users that are on dialup at home. They drag their laptop to the coffee shop, and proceed to run Windoze and application updates, followed by downloads of their favorite songs and videos. They run a dozen parallel streams of downloads and will generally try to saturate the incoming bandwidth for about 30 to 60 mins. One coffee shop had to go from a 1500/256 Mbit/sec DSL line to a 3000/384 Mbit/sec DSL line to accommodate the peak load.
Cisco PIX can't do this. WRT54G with alternative firmware, Wondershaper, and some scripting can do this. Dummynet can also sorta do it. I haven't found an IPtables template for simulating the HughesNet FAP and have been only marginally successful at implementing it myself. Also, whether it's worth the effort is subject to debate.
I hear you. "Practical and realistic" depends on individual perception.
What I see on a daily basis is dozens of users paying for T-Mobile service next door at Starbucks. They look content paying for service. They don't ask store people for help to configure their laptops. (The staff haven't a clue.) I haven't seen Starbucks hyping the service. They treat it as a minor enhancement to customer experience, sort of like the plush chairs they offer. No customer expects Starbucks NOT to price those chairs into its food menu prices. If the company thought it would make more business sense to give the service away for free, I'm sure they'd do so. They sell the service instead, and I suppose they do so because THAT's where the value is to their business. Yep, customers are always happier if they get things for free, but all I'm saying is that I don't see a business reason not to sell access to willing buyers.
As an advertising medium, I find WiFi highly doubtful. Its extremely limited range makes it about as effective as posting a sign in our store window. If it has any promotional value to our business at all, it will have that value whether people pay or don't pay. True, more people will use the service if it's free, but think about who those people are. They're folks who aren't very interested in spending money. That means the aditional traffic will tend to come from people parked outside for whom Internet access isn't even worth the price of coffee.
I'm not being cynical, just thinking from the business point of view. Adding WiFi would cost about as much as placing a small ad in the local newspaper. But that ad will be seen by FAR more potential customers, and experience tells us that those ads work.
hehe ... that reminds me. Before I entered the restaurant business I never dreamed that people could be so inventive at getting things for free. I've heard every reason in the book why someone should be entitled to free food or to extend their banquet for free beyond the contract time. The fact that wireless access is free probably won't stop people from making demands and complaining about restricted sites. I'll bet even the residential neighbors will do the same thing.