Free Wi-Fi is one of the few value added services that helps contribute to the growth of businesses through attracting and retaining customers. Here we examine how it will be wise for businesses and Public Internet Access Providers to enhance customer value by augmenting their security environment.
Seamless connectivity in public places is becoming increasingly important and users in the UAE enjoy free internet access in malls, metro, tram, public parks and open spaces. Wi-Fi is considered a right by UAE residents and not a utility or public service as they use innumerable internet-based apps and devices for knowledge, entertainment, connectivity and social interaction. Telecom providers in the UAE have built one of the best infrastructures in the world and private businesses such as shops, commercial establishments and restaurants are benefitting from the same and provide free internet access for their customers.
Free Wi-Fi is a vital part of the value offered to customers
Businesses, especially in retail and hospitality, have learnt that driving customer loyalty is not exclusively about price: it’s about value and offering an integrated customer experience. And when businesses offer free Wi-Fi and play the role of a Public Internet Access Provider (PIAP), they take a step towards creating the perfect integrated customer experience. In a study recently commissioned by Wi-Fi Alliance® and Wakefield Research, 48 percent of consumers said they are more likely to shop at a store that gives them access to a wireless Internet connection. Nearly a third of customers tend to stay longer in a Wi-Fi enabled store translating into higher revenues for the businesses. The study also reveals that 35 percent of consumers use their mobile device to look for product reviews while shopping, and that one in three abandons a purchase because they couldn’t complete their research.
Today, retailers and restaurants can lose profit as a result of a poor Internet connection. In a competitive business environment, they can’t afford to lag behind the technology curve.
For these businesses, Wi-Fi offers a trifecta of benefits: more traffic, longer face time with customers and a larger spend per person. As they look to gain market share, Wi-Fi offers them with a cost effective differentiator. According to the survey, 30 percent of consumers said they are more likely to return to a store with seamless, automatic Wi-Fi. This is a huge number that in itself promotes the inescapable conclusion that free Wi-Fi is essential for businesses.
Online safety is the responsibility of the PIAP
Customers use multiple smart devices to access and share information via public Wi-Fi zones. This has resulted in businesses having to ensure that their networks are secure and private. An unsecured free Wi-Fi access point, set up with the best intentions by a store owner, may not provide a high level of security as users can easily be enticed by unscrupulous websites and apps.
A mind-boggling number of PIAPs serve the millions of visitors to the UAE in addition to its residents. For example, a single location such as a large mall demands simultaneous access at any time. To cater to the vast number of PIAPs, telecom providers have made an extra effort in infrastructure deployment. They have also addressed privacy and security concerns at the infrastructure level to keep user information confidential and to minimise security threats.
An added layer of security at the PIAP level closes the loop
A proven approach to meet the security challenges for commercial establishments that offer free Wi-Fi is to provide them with an additional layer of security that safeguards businesses from potential security threats and helps them avoid liability for breaches.
Competent UAE authorities and telecoms providers have developed solutions to implement the additional layer of security at the public Wi-Fi network or PIAP level. Utilising the added layer of security brings peace of mind to businesses and assures their customers that they are receiving better value. It is a win-win for the users as well as the PIAPs – the users don’t suffer breaches and the PIAPs avoid any liability.
Etisalat’s drop-in PIAP solution provides peace of mind
Etisalat, the UAE’s leading telecoms provider, offers a fully integrated solution to ensure that business owners offer a safe and secure internet experience to users. The solution is based on a PIAP Gateway that is connected to the internet router. This gateway helps in security by identifying unique users at any given point in time. The solution is designed to be user-friendly and ensures that a secure connection is established and individual users are identified successfully.
The business owner does not need to make any additional investment, besides the nominal cost of the gateway, to deliver secured wireless access. The solution is scalable and does not impact user experience; in fact, this drop-in security through the PIAP gateway makes it simpler for commercial establishments and relieves them of upgrading their Wi-Fi networks.
As UAE strives to become one of most connected countries in the world, this PIAP initiative creates a better security environment which can be used as an added commercial differentiator. Free Wi-Fi represents a building block upon which the UAE can reap the benefits of technology, but we need to ensure that we also remain safe.