T-Mobile's WiFi Usage: Impressive Or Not?

T-Mobile is getting a ton of press coverage today for releasing some numbers on hotspot usage — and I say “some” very purposely, as it seems that they carefully released only a few specific numbers. Those numbers are somewhat meaningless. They say 450,000 people have paid to access WiFi in the last 3 months, but without more details it’s hard to know what those 450,000 uses mean. It’s also hard to say whether or not that’s really “impressive” which is the term I keep hearing thrown out about this news. 450,000 might not really be that much — especially for a business that’s been around for a while. In fact, the selective release of numbers only makes it seem like they’re trying to hide whatever it is the real stats show. The one nice bit of info is that people seem to be using their accounts for longer when they do login, suggesting that people are getting more comfortable using hotspots in coffee shops and such — though, that also supports the story that WiFi hotspot users are more likely to linger these days than in the past. Either way, I still question whether or not T-Mobile’s business model can last long term. I’m one of those 450,000 customers, but I only used it a few times — and more recently switched to using SBC’s FreedomLink instead. It has nearly as ubiquitous locations and it only costs $2 with my existing DSL — which is a lot better than T-Mobile’s $20 with my Sidekick account. Of course, I tend to use free WiFi more than I use either of those accounts either. On my last trip to NY, for example, I came prepared to use either SBC or T-Mobile and it turns out I had to use neither as there was plenty of free accounts to go around.

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