Airpath Announces They Will Have 20,000 Hotspots

This is a very painful piece of news, because a company worthy of respect has somehow fallen on its own petard. Airpath is a small WiFi hotspot operator who survived the near-extinction of their species by NOT getting on the buildout-bluster bandwagon. That’s the bandwagon where every WISP claimed that they would build 20,000 hotspots by end 2003, and then based their business model on each of those hotspots serving many paying customers each day. Now, however, after the death of rivals such as Cometa, we would expect Airpath to emerge much wiser, so it disappoints us to read that Airpath plans to become a roaming aggregator that will build a roaming solution that will allow them to offer a network of…you guessed it… 20,000 hotspots. Why did they have to pick that number? The current plan, at least, seems to acknowledge that they will not build-out the network themselves, but will aggregate other networks and independents. This is a far more sensible business than incurring the cost of 20k hotspots, but even aggregating is not a novel twist of the WISP business plan. The shift towards aggregating was covered in an article I wrote in July 2003, where I poked fun at the inevitable 20,000 number, and then also pointed out that when everyone wants to aggregate and no one wants to build, there’s little to aggregate. Fairly little has changed in the Hotspot game since July 03, except that a lot of hotspots seem to be adopting the free service model, and 3G networks are closer — neither of which has improved the Airpath outlook.

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