Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (TASE: BEZQ) today launched Bezeq Free Wi-Fi, a public Wi-Fi service, the first service of its kind in Israel. The new service gives Bezeq customers free unlimited Internet access from smartphones, tablets, and laptops away from home.
Bezeq chose a model that shares wireless routers in customers' homes. Each customer will share, in a secure way, a small part of his Internet access plan in exchange for free access nationwide. In effect, every home router will be a hotspot. In preparation for the launch, Bezeq carried out a pilot for several months with several hundred participants nationwide. The model more efficiently uses network resources and maximizes consumer advantage. Each consumer benefits from the network's capabilities and deployment while resources are shared in common and fairly.
Bezeq also set up collaborations with large national retailers. The service has been initiated with BUG Multisystem Ltd., Hamashbir 365 Holdings Ltd. (TASE:MSAH), Pizza Hut, gas stations, Renuar Ltd. fashion chain, Eyal Makiage Ltd. cosmetics chain, and other retailers. This collaboration gives Bezeq a mass of hotspots nationwide, for the broadest possible service for its customers. Bezeq customers joining the Wi-Fi community will have access to all Bezeq hotspots for free, including the participating businesses.
Bezeq CEO Eyal Gabbai said, "With this measure, Bezeq continues its investment in innovation as part of its long term leadership strategy. The new service will leverage the company's landline operations outside the home for the good of the consumer. It is based on a cooperative concept, which enables consumers to themselves establish a free wireless network while relying on Bezeq's technological capabilities."
Bezeq has 850,000 customers with Wi-Fi routers, creating potential hotspots nationwide, with huge potential for a cooperative community. Each customer who signs up for the service consents to sharing a small part of his Internet access plan in exchange for free access via other customers' Wi-Fi plans.
The launch of the iPhone, followed by other smartphones in the past two years, greatly accelerated Wi-Fi use. There are now also tablets, cameras, and other devices that only support Wi-Fi, and not 3G. Technological developments and the growth of Wi-Fi routers at homes, awareness of Wi-Fi, and the custom of using it for searches has paralleled the growing popularity and diversity of Wi-Fi supported end equipment.
As a result, there has been global growth of hotspots, and 30% of carriers now offer hotspot access, with the proportion likely to exceed 50% by the end of the year. In Israel, as in the rest of the world, demand for Wi-Fi access in public locations is growing. Demand is growing not just from private customers, but also from businesses, public agencies, and municipalities.
A study by Bezeq found that 75% of smartphone owners regularly check whether there are available Wi-Fi networks away from home, and that they want Internet access. Only a few respondents said that they always found an open and available network. 30% of respondents own mobile phones with no Internet package, and more than 60% of respondents said that they use Wi-Fi to access the Internet when away from home.
Bezeq customers can join the Bezeq service via the company's website, its Facebook page, or via the Bezeq Free Wi-Fi app, which can be downloaded to Android-supported devices. An iPhone app will be available soon. If a customer learns that his router does not support the service, he will be notified to this effect and that he has to replace the router by home delivery or at a Bezeq store.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 24, 2012
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