Small Businesses Offering Wi-Fi Services – at What Service Level?

Instead of building customer loyalty, offering Wifi may be driving customers away.


Small business owners frequently think that they can add Wi-Fi services to their brick and mortar sites and thereby make their facilities more attractive to customers.

While this may be a good thing to do, small business owners need to do a requirements analysis first and determine their objectives. Otherwise, instead of building customer loyalty, they may be driving customers away due to poor service while driving up the cost of doing business.

There is no one-size-fits-all Wi-Fi solution that executives can request and execute.

Each situation can be different and therefore the executives need to understand the scope of what they wish to deliver. So what are the desires and intentions?

The general requirement may be an “excellent” level of service where all users are able to get the necessary performance they are looking for. But not all services are the same and different bandwidths are needed for different types of access and use cases.

The use cases can be broken down into these three categories:

  • Low-bandwidth services such as e-mail, Web browsing, and instant messaging,
  • Medium-bandwidth services such as music streaming and audio calling, and
  • High-bandwidth services such as video streaming.

Four Keys to Establishing the Criteria:

1.  General Service Level:

One needs to determine if the intent is to provide a “high” level of service or is it sufficient that the network performs “acceptably,” whatever that may mean and however it might be defined.

Another considerations should be if this is to be a free service or a for-fee service – and the implications of that decision. Latency is also concern here for particular application types (calling, video) and the more users one expects to support, the more bandwidth will be required.

Whether a paid service or not, I’ve experienced numerous occasions where providers still have poor performance and aren’t particularly concerned about it.

For instance, some of the hotels and conference centers I frequent have horrific Wi-Fi services that I or someone paid for. This could be a result of insufficient ISP speeds, poor access point layout, room location, or any number of other things. It all depends on what objectives are here – from both the company and user views.

2.  User Experience:

What are the objectives? How do they define what level of service they want? Metrics for number of users, types of traffic desired and allowed, etc. Do they wish to perform filtering of any kind such as “inappropriate” Web sites, VPN blocking, etc?

Next page- Establishing the Criteria Keys #3 and #4 and Summary

Cal Braunstein
Cal Braunstein
Mr. Braunstein serves as Chairman/CEO and Executive Director of Research at the Robert Frances Group (RFG). In addition to his corporate role, he helps his clients wrestle with a range of business, management, regulatory, and technology issues.  He has deep and broad experience in business strategy management, business process management, enterprise systems architecture, financing, mission-critical systems, project and portfolio management, procurement, risk management, sustainability, and vendor management. Cal also chaired a Business Operational Risk Council whose membership consisted of a number of top global financial institutions. Website

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