Why Hosted WiFi Makes Sense
Instead of providing solutions, the SMB market is flooded with "free" WiFi gear that under-delivers and underperforms. Hosted services could improve that situation.
Adtran recently announced the first phase of their ProCloud managed service program. ProCloud enables resellers and service providers to launch Adtran-branded or private label cloud WLAN services. Adtran offers two models for management, ProCloud and ProCloud Private Label:
* The ProCloud model is a complete turnkey Adtran managed service. It provides 99.99% guaranteed infrastructure uptime and complete redundancy, access to technical support at priority SLAs, next business day or 4-hour hardware replacement, proactive monitoring and 24x7 alerts, moves/adds/changes, and monthly management reports.
* ProCloud Private Label enables Adtran partners to offer the service under their own brand, while utilizing Adtran's hosting infrastructure and ProServices. This enables the partner to incorporate a Wi-Fi managed service into their offerings, gain new customers and a new revenue stream without the burden of training and certifying additional staff.
Adtran is betting that as wireless demand grows, ProCloud will address challenges that businesses face:
* The need for reliable, always-on service
* The need for additional and dedicated IT staff to install and maintain a business-class Wi-Fi
* The need to ensure security as both guests and customers access the network
This launch I think will empower the VAR base to sell higher-end WiFi solutions. Todd Lattanzi, director of product management for Adtran's Enterprise Networks Division, told me: "Other partners are also excited with having both models/options." While this is only the initial launch and first phase of their offering, there is more to come.
I also spoke to Todd about the education vertical we serve, and how capital dollars are tight, and that the private school districts we service can barely afford the Bluesocket APs (BSAPs) 802.11n that often involve key infrastructure improvements. Because funding is always tight, these capital projects must have a life span of 7-10 years, and that's pushing it beyond normal technology obsolescence. Instead, we'd like to see turnkey hosted solutions including the access points (APs) and even the switching (LAN) infrastructure.
The flexibility of Adtran's ProCloud service does allow partners to private-label or to partner with Adtran using ProServices. The ProServices program includes: ProStart and ProCare--ProStart provides installation services for customers challenged due to minimal IT staff and/or geographical, business model or technical expertise constraints. ProCare includes maintenance, hardware replacement and technical support.
These services, I think will be very effective because virtualization requires resources and specializations that many very small and other SMBs lack the skill sets to implement and manage. Even in those SMBs with IT support--the WiFi piece is often mismatched with the network infrastructure and then some of these contractors simply don't have infrastructure and WiFi skill sets.
With current WiFi adoptions by scores of SMBs (very small/small businesses) that utilize free (retail--and I mean NOT enterprise class) routers; these businesses are missing out with inferior WiFi performance and lacking in service, since most simply call their ISP to order a new router with "free onboard WiFi" to replace their defunct gear.
Instead of providing solutions, the market is flooded with "free" WiFi gear that under-delivers and underperforms. It's akin to masses of SMBs having telephony systems without advanced features that actually help them achieve better, faster, cheaper.
Now, many small businesses don't carry any notion of the value of WiFi, other than maybe granting occasional access to customers or vendors/suppliers to assist in giving onsite presentations and demos. This mentality is toxic to growth and the potential that WiFi offers. A robust WiFi network will do much more, and for those organizations that don't get it, they will inevitably pay more and net less value.
Todd is right that with the hosted service, "businesses will spend less time and attention troubleshooting their IT challenges and remain focused on achieving core business goals." Getting the very small businesses out of the mindset of using whatever their ISP offers as "free," and moving them into platforms that deliver solutions, performance and value will be rewarding for those that move in this direction.
I also think Adtran is right about the growth of WiFi and the challenges businesses have. Will these same businesses recognize the value of WiFi, and will they move away from the default "Free WiFi router included" from their ISPs--and will they adopt new applications and business cases for enterprise-class WiFi?