WeFi opens WiFi data-heavy app store
To ease carriers' bandwidth constraints, WeFi is launching an app store for services to connect direct to WiFi
Community-based WiFi network provider WeFi is the latest to try its hand at a mobile application store, with plans to launch an app portal this week powered by WiFi and designed for data-intensive apps and services. Called WeFiApps, the storefront will feature mobile Internet apps that would otherwise tax a carrier's network to be run over the best WiFi connection WeFi can locate.
The store is broken down into themed app palettes, including communication services, entertainment and information. Within the categories are apps ranging from mobile email to mobile video and TV to social networks. Services like video uploading and downloading and games that require constant Web access will be central, according to WeFi vice president of marketing Amit Shaked. At launch, WeFi has already signed up Fring, Joiku, Nimbuzz, IM+ from Shape Services, VuFone from NewAct and Hollywood Star from HOVR. The announcement builds on a partnership WeFi has with ROK Entertainment in the UK to offer its mobile services, including SMS, mobile email and mobile TV, over Wi-Fi on Symbian devices.
These apps, a combination of free and paid, will be available online or on any WiFi-enabled Symbian S60 mobile phone at launch. Once a consumer chooses a pallet, he or she can download it to a mobile phone with a WiFi app engine. From there, clicking on the app automatically connects it to WiFi.
CREATING COMMUNITY WIFI
WeFi, an Israel-based startup, was founded in 2006 to synch mobile phone users up with the global broadband wireless network. It combines a community-generated database, smart connection manager and hotspot directory to locate and connect a user to a WiFi access point where Internet access has already been verified by other WeFi-enabled devices. These 'community-verified spots,' which today number more than 21 million, are recorded by the company as well as WeFi users who can use them to connect with friends on their map.
The demand for mobile broadband has been growing so fast that even 4G networks might not be able to keep up, according to Shaked. As unlicensed and generally unmanaged spectrum, WiFi networks can be found in abundance in almost every urban area. The difficulty comes in identifying what networks are open and reliable. WeFi puts client-side software in devices to enable the backend server to aggregate an image of WiFi coverage and transmit it back to the handset.
"It knows which of the so-called 'good signal spots' actually has good access to the Internet, and also, if people around have WiFi on the devices, the server knows how many people connect to each hotspot," Shaked said. "It can instruct some of the devices to connect to a different network that you wouldn't know to connect to on your own if you were looking for a network because you'd go for the unencrypted network with the best signal."
To date, WeFi software is installed on 2 million different devices, 60% of which are PCs, although mobile is now accelerating at a faster pace. The software runs on Windows Mobile, Symbian S60 and, most recently, Android-based devices. The company's goal is to eventually be compatible with every mobile OS, and it currently has a version for the iPhone working its way through Apple's approval process. The basic version of the software is free to consumers, but WeFi plans to launch a paid product for Symbian, which contains additional features such as the ability to log in to paid WiFi networks.
"The next phase is to interface with carriers," Shaked said. "We have initial conversations to provide a custom product the carrier would license and have a branded version of WiFi on subscribers' phone. It would enable them to utilize WiFi whenever the 3G network is overloaded."
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© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
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