RealTime IT News

Hotspots for the Home Network User

In an industry first, home broadband users will soon be getting direct marketing for Wi-Fi hotspots.

T-Mobile, the mobile arm of Deutsche Telecom , is teaming up with Comcast in a marketing and promotions deal. The 5 million subscribers of cable-modem service provider Comcast will be subject to a marketing campaign extolling the virtues of Wi-Fi on the road, specifically when used at T-Mobile's Hotspots.

T-Mobile runs over 4,000 hotspots in the United States and is slowly growing overseas. The company's Wi-Fi service is found at Border's Books and Music , Starbucks Coffee , and Kinko's locations, plus in many airport lounges.

Initially Comcast subscribers can exclusively try a T-Mobile Hotspot with a DayPass good for 24 hours for $9.99, and get one additional free DayPass each month through the end of the year.

In addition, Comcast subscribers who sign up for the $29.99 per month subscription to T-Mobile Hotspots will get one month free as a trial. T-Mobile has offered this deal with other partners in the past.

"Since the beginning with Starbucks we've been focused on our venue strategy," says T-Mobile spokesman Bryan Zidar. "This year we're focusing on customer awareness and adoption."

This deal with Comcast shoots at a big target: the millions of households that are broadband-savvy early adopters who might be more willing to try a high-speed connection out of the home now that they know what DSL and cable-modem speeds are like. Such customers will become more plentiful: Jupiter Research (a unit of this site's corporate parent) says that the 21.5 million broadband users in the United States today will more than double in the next three years.

Comcast subscribers will start to see a banner ad on their sign-in pages today, plus there will be T-Mobile offers stuffed in with their monthly Comcast bill. Users must sign-up online via their Comcast account.

While T-Mobile Hotspots seemed to be shying away from the consumer-only market with deals like the iPass roaming agreement -- a company that aggregates hotspots for use by enterprises -- this promotion signals a shift back to a consumer market strategy.

"We've found in researching consumer behavior that a lot of folks who trial [the service] become subscribers," says Zidar.

Pushing the service to new customers is up to T-Mobile, but the hotspot venues are also putting it to use by trying to entice users to buy their goods. Borders will offer hotspot subscribers links to listen to Grammy-nominated songs, which they can then go and buy in the store. Last month Starbucks offered subscribers official "behind-the-scenes" looks at the goings on at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival (they also offered a free DayPass). Such content deals are done in conjunction with T-Mobile, which controls the network.