Devicescape scores deals as telcos get relaxed about WiFi
We first covered Devicescape about a year ago (see - Microsoft opens transparent Windows on data costs) and then again in June this year (see - WiFi: getting users out of the shell of minimal usage)
The US company styles itself as a 'curator' of amenity (free) WiFi. The organisation keeps a big, constantly updated database somewhere in the cloud, the user of the telco-provided smartphone, tablet or even computer, has a piece of client software, and the idea is that by these entities working together an 'optimal' user WiFi experience can be 'curated'.
The client software logs users on to amenity WiFi when it's of the required standard and its user gets free WiFi without having to log on every time (always the bugbear mentioned by any device user or WiFi refusnik) while the amenity WiFi providers get more users which, after all, is the point of providing the amenity.
The latest signings in the US appear to show that this particular business model might be "getting traction" as carriers get used to the idea that WiFi can work in conjunction with cellular without necessarily (in the user's mind) diminishing its importance or centrality - in other words the act of curating WiFi can be presented as part of the service, not a way of undermining it.
Devicescape's own numbers have a touch of the hockey stick about them. It claims it has 12 million access points currently under curation and at the current rate expects this to expand to 100 million by the end of 2017, 26 million of which will be in Europeå.
Devicescape has just signed two significant deals. One with Cricket, part of Leap Wireless in turn soon to be gobbled up by AT&T. And, in a separate deal, it has signed up to a framework agreement with the US Competitive Carrier Association (CCA) which has a large number of small mobile operators. Under the standard deal these operators will be able to use the service without the hassle of negotiating their own agreements.
In the longer term it's possible to see the Devicescape business model strengthened by it folding in paid-for Hotspot 2.0 WiFi to cover areas where amenity WiFi isn't available or of good enough quality and arranging the inter-carrier charging. Alternatively, paid-for WiFi - direct to the user - could be offered as a step up from amenity WiFi.
The specter of the curator becoming a middle-person between user and multiple network operators must play heavy on the telco mind and that may explain why big operator traction has apparently been elusive so far... maybe Devicescape will hook a biggy in the next month or so.