4G Mobile Data – Now via Human Hotspots

POSTED BY Global Administrator
I have previously blogged about how, for mobile operators, offloading to WiFi or small cell networks will make their 3G/4G business case profitable. Operators have been increasingly deploying their own public WiFi hotspots, such as AT&T in the US, and using third party service providers, to provide customers with seamless data connectivity. This availability of widely deployed WiFi hotspots in turn provides the operators with a good value proposition. It is quite obvious that MNOs will use every available resource to solve any existing capacity problem in order to obtain additional revenue and cost savings, along with data traffic control. Well, having just said that, it was only this morning when my amused Research Director pointed me towards this very interesting news - homeless people of Austin, being used as WiFi hotspots for bandwidth-hungry, gadget-happy conference-goers. As per Windsor’s blog last week about connected cows, I Am Not Making This Up: this is in fact a real and earnest attempt from a company called BBH Labs - according to them, the point of the project was not to objectify homeless people or treat human beings as tech infrastructure, but to empower them. Ok, so this is how it works: BBH selected participants to carry a MiFi device with 4G connectivity; you meet them, you greet them, you log-in using your mobile or tablet and you pay them for the access (via a PayPal link - a price of $2 per 15 minutes). This revenue is then paid in its entirety to the individual bearing the hotspot, along with a $20 per day basic allowance. Some news articles have raised questions about the morality of such a scheme: does it use and abuse the homeless? I am not going to dwell on its morality here; that is beyond the scope of this particular article. From my perspective, it is equally interesting in terms of what it says about the need for connectivity. Even though this publicity stunt is not exactly about mobile network data offload, let us look at it this way - it is actually advertising the role hotspots are playing in this data centric world.  We believe that data offload via WiFi hotspots (be it via Starbucks, McDonalds or even Human) will continue to be complementary with any cellular technology – 3G or 4G technology alone is not going to be an answer to this mobile data growth. Whether or not such human hotspots constitute a viable solution is another matter entirely…