The idea that free Wi-Fi and consumer goods go together has not been lost on Coca-Cola. This is what’s going on in Brazil & South Africa:
In Brazil the Coca-Cola brand is reaching out to venue owners of all sorts with an offer of Free Wi-Fi in partnership with Fon and the carrier Oi.
More than 300 Wi-Fi hotspots offer the free Coca-Cola Wi-Fi service in Rio de Janeiro alone. The website suggest that Coca-Cola Wi-Fi has plans to expand to other parts of Latin America but thus far the website doesn’t redirect to show hotspots in other parts of Lat Am.
I’m guessing that other LatAm carrier partners will jump on this opportunity in due course.
In Brazil venues are invited to take part in the Coke’s new Wi-Fi network via the website. It’s not clear from the website what venues are being charged for a Coke Wi-Fi hotspot but it is presumably not free.
The benefit to venues of course is a ready-made managed ‘free’ Wi-Fi service that arguable will attract more customers into shops and cafés.
Earlier this week it was announced that Coca-Cola has turned some South African soft drink vending machines into Wi-Fi hotspots with some help from BT Global Services. This is a trial addressing the need for Internet connectivity in underserved areas.
So what’s Coca-Cola getting out of this?
Not easy to put a figure on the ad value but the cost of consumer-grade Wi-Fi APs at $20 a pop is certainly no show-stopper. Add to this the cost of broadband connections. I haven’t talked to the Oi people about this yet but I imagine they are not in this for charity
The market for SMB free Wi-Fi is huge on paper with countless millions of locations all over the world. Fon has recently launched an SMB offering addressing precisely this big but arguably hard-to-reach segment.
Coca-Cola Wi-Fi could be indicator of a new wave of (partly) brand-sponsored free wireless. I’ll be watching this very closely.
Below: The Coca-Cola Wi-Fi network in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.