Yesterday, PLDT and Intel held a joint event to present a partnership for the PLDT WiFi Zone and the Intel-powered ultrabooks. They didn’t really share anything concrete plans bewteen the two brands but it was an opporunity for me to ask a lingering question — can paid public WiFi still survive in this time of cheap mobile internet and free public WiFi?
The PLDT WiFi Zone was first introduced sometime in December with regional pocket launches in Cebu (during Sinulog) and in Baguio (during Penagbenga).
PLDT WiFi Zone speed test.
Prior to this, Smart Bro also offered a similar WiFi service called SmartBro WiFly which was a partnership with Airborne Access (a company bought earlier by PLDT). Today, it looks like Airborne Access is no longer in operation and if you visit their website (airborneaccess.net), a Smart Bro website will appear in its stead.
When I asked PLDT representatives if the PLDT WiFi Zone will complement or kill Airborne Acess, they responded by saying that all of the Airborne Access WiFi hotspots will be integrated into the PLDT WiFi Zone. This is the reason why they’ve managed to put up over 3,500 hotspots all over the country in such a short time.
PLDT’s strategy with the WiFi Zone is to offer a complimentary service to all Smart and PLDT Subscribers. It’s still a paid service but a heavily discounted one.
Existing Smart subscribers get the additional unlimited access for only Php300 MSF on top of the postpaid account. PLDT MyDSL subscribers will only need to shell out Php150 per month to get the same access.
The rates are pretty affordable especially if you’re on PLDT MyDSL and if your usual hang-out place has one of them PLDT WiFi Zones.
The question still remains though — in this day and age where a lot of malls, restaurants and coffee shops offer free public WiFi and the fact that mobile internet is also very cheap (Php50 per day on unlimited), is there a room for paid WiFi service?
It didn’t really worked well before with Airborne Access because of the very expensive price (as much as Php100 per hour right?) and maybe that’s the reason why PLDT gobbled up the remaining hotspots and incorporated them into the WiFi Zone. Then, there’s the problem of finding these hotspots at your usual hang-out places.
As for me, and since I am a PLDT MyDSL subscriber, I’d go ahead and fork out the extra Php150 a month once my favorite spots in the Metro will have them (MOA, Magallanes, Greenbelt, Boni High Street). So far, I have not found one yet in the last couple of months so it’s a wait and see attitude for me. This is merely as a back-up connection — wired DSL over WiFi still beats 3G internet in terms of stability (torrents too!).
So, I’ll throw the question on the floor — do you think paid public WiFi will fly?
Disclosure: All visitors and members of the media were given a free access to the PLDT WiFi Zone until June 30, 2012.