Some good news for Apple consumers: JiWire announced this week that it will provide free Wi-Fi hotspot access to iPod touch and iPhone users. The catch? Ads, of course.
The offer does not extend to all of the 100,000 hotspots in the JiWire Wi-Fi Advertising Network, only to “select Wi-Fi hotspots located in airports, hotels, cafes, and other desirable locations around the world.” Among the included destinations are four major American airports: New York’s JFK and LaGuardia; Atlanta-Hartsfield; and Chicago’s O’Hare.
Since iPod touch and iPhone users are considered by advertisers to be a dream demographic—affluent, tech-savvy—time with their eyeballs is an easy sell to marketers. Charles Schwab and HBO, for example, are among the first to deliver advertising to iPhone users under the arrangement announced today.
The JiWire announcement comes on the heels of the news last month that Denver International Airport would offer free 802.11n broadband Wi-Fi access throughout its facilities; JetBlue is testing free, in-flight Wi-Fi; and other airlines are set to launch their own free, in-flight Wi-Fi pilots. Wayport also announced last week that it would offer free Wi-Fi access to mylo COM-2 users. (Wayport serves many airports and other destinations nationwide.)
Signs seem to indicate that the tide may be turning in favor of free access, particularly at travel-related destinations, but the current trend seems to be toward ad-sponsored and/or device-specific access. JetBlue has partnered with RIM and Yahoo! to fund its Wi-Fi, so access is limited to Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Instant Messenger, and BlackBerry e-mail and messaging, for example. JiWire’s targeting iPhones and iPod touches; and Wayport has partnered with Sony.
For more on the major players in the fight to find a profitable ad-sponsored Wi-Fi model, check back next month. For more on DIA’s deployment, read “DIA Deploys Free Wi-Fi”; for more on JetBlue’s experiment, read “2008: The Year of In-Flight Wi-Fi?”. For more on Wi-Fi at travel destinations, read “Destination Wi-Fi” and “Around the World in 80 Nodes.”
Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet, where this article originally appeared.