Selling WiFi bandwidth by the micro-chunk
We caught up with Bandwidthx CEO, Dr. Pertti Visuri, who expanded on the basic idea. Bandwidthx is modeled on (and uses many of the same techniques) as low-cost airline seat selling online. The mobile operators want to buy WiFi capacity as and when they need it (at hotspots at certain times). WiFi network operators want an easy, automated way of selling it at the right price.
Here's how it works. The operators input trading instructions or connection policies (two ways of looking at the same thing). These basically work through a bit of IF/THEN logic for the moment each handset looks to see if there is WiFi available to augment its connection. "If my handset is connected to this particular sector ID - then the following applies during week days between 11am and 12 noon (say). After 12.00, 50 cents per megabyte etc," explained Dr Visuri. If the connection cost at a particular moment meets the user's policy level then the system works out an equitable price, between the policy price and the amount asked for by the Wi|Fi network operator.
The WiFi operator obviously inputs and monitors a similar pricing policy on the 'sell side' for all its connections.
In this way a market forms between multiple WiFi sellers and MNOs but it's done on a ultra-micro micro-payment basis and involves millions of tiny transactions - just the way real markets are supposed to work, says Dr Visuri. We've all heard of big data, this is big billing.
How does it work on the ground? "There's an Android app on the device which monitors the quality of service, authenticates the device to the network; manages the WiFi and looks out for a password access point."
Battery exhaustion? "The app turns the radio off when not in use and then wakes it up every 10 minutes to look for connections," says Dr isuri. If aggressive WiFi-finding is part of its policy, when it finds one it consults the marketplace which validates the request and offers time credentials for connecting. The app then does a quality check and speed test to make sure the connection meets the quality standard.
The accounting is done on the device and then forwarded to the operator.
So how seamless is the experience for the user, bearing in mind that many people on the user side believe that leaving the seams in place is a must so that users know what service they're using?
"We think we operate between the seams. Our solution is to provide tools which the operator can use to present a service to the user. It's up to the participating operator as to how that is presented."