The Simplicity of Being Unlimited

You climb into a cab. The driver flips the meter on. In heavy midday traffic, you watch the meter click off the pounds, even as you watch pedestrians on the street passing you by. Then you notice the cabbie’s sign: No Credit Cards, Cash Only.

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It's annoying – but you remember too late, "Damn, why didn't I just Uber it?” Uber: simple, elegant, efficient – you know exactly how much it will cost and when you’ll be picked up. Billed directly to your account. No watching meters, no cash, no surprises.

Web conferencing market leader WebEx used to bill by the minute. But conscious of that “taxi” meter, WebEx customers were hesitant to use the service in fear of running up big and unpredictable bills. As a result, while costs were covered, usage lagged and so did revenue. So WebEx took a leap of faith: unlimited usage - all the meetings you want for a flat monthly fee. Customers embraced this change: more meetings meant more sales for WebEx.

What’s more, the big worry of costs were kept in check because as soon as usage started skyrocketing, efficiencies of scale drove costs down while revenue and profits soared as meetings multiplied. The competition was forced to follow suit, but without the efficiencies WebEx’s scale enjoyed. Fast forward a few years and Cisco buys WebEx for over $3 billion.

As humans, we also love simplicity. If a service is too complex to sign up to or costs aren’t black and white, we inherently start questioning its value. One such service is Wi-Fi; used by many people but can be anything but simple.

It’s free, right? Sure, it can be, as long as you can hunt down a password, be forced to watch a tacky online ad or video, relinquish your email address to ensure a steady stream of spam, and…you get the idea. “Free” Wi-Fi can be very expensive; that’s before you realize that your laptop has been hacked on an unsecure “free” hotspot.

Then there's in-flight Wi-Fi. Nothing free about that. Or hotels. Just pull out that MasterCard again but don’t worry, pretty soon you’ll have that 16-digit number memorized. Ultimately, there are millions of hotspots around the world, yet hardly the simple, hands-off, invisible (but slow) experience we expect from cellular services.

“Free” will always work for a segment of the population – the segment that has unlimited time, unlimited patience, or an unlimited tolerance for risk. The rest of us are more than willing to pay for convenience, service, support, and security.

Invisible, Everywhere and Unlimited

Which brings us to the tentative alliance between Unlimited and Simplicity. We live in a connected world. We demand connectivity, but 3G/4G roaming can be painfully slow and also be a severe drain on your bank account. Today’s Net Natives are demanding Wi-Fi that is Invisible, Everywhere, and Unlimited.

They should no longer need to chase around looking for passwords or sit through stupid ads. Invisible Wi-Fi should simply connect like 4G on your smartphone or tablet. No more fiddling with an app or hammering away on a keyboard just to connect to Wi-Fi.

At the same time, Wi-Fi should be everywhere, whether that is in airports, on trains, the local café, a hotel or in the air. Indeed, the latest research estimates that there will be over 340 million Wi-Fi hotspots globally by 2018. However, a ubiquitous, secure and hassle-free Wi-Fi connection needs to be a pre-requisite.

Finally, users should no longer need to worry about Wi-Fi data and device limits. Unlimited connectivity without the meter running and usage across multiple devices (laptop, smartphone or tablet) should be the norm. Wi-Fi should be that unlimited and that simple.

 Posted by Gary Griffiths, President and CEO, iPass

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