Figuring the Costs
Hosting a hotspot does not come cheap, yet the benefits usually outweigh the costs. Typical operating costs you should anticipate while installing and hosting your Wi-Fi hotspot are as follows:
- Internet service—$60 or more per month
- Equipment—$40–$500 one time
- Installation—1–2 days of your time
- Ongoing support—A few hours each month
If you do not already have an Internet connection available for the hotspot, that will be one of your first expenses. Business-class Internet service prices and terms depend on the type of service and features among the various ISPs.
If you are deploying a small hotspot, as in a small café or bookstore that will not have loads of users, you will likely get away with paying $35–$80 per month for an Internet connection. However, if you are setting up a hotspot in a large hotel or library, you will probably have a great deal of users, which would require a higher-quality Internet connection that might cost $100 to $300 a month. Chapter 3, "First Steps to Setting Up a Wi-Fi Hotspot," further discusses the Internet connection types.
The cost of the equipment, or hardware, varies significantly depending on the size and type of hotspot you plan to install.
The simplest hotspot using the same type of wireless router that is used in homes will cost only around $40. This type of hotspot is simple because it has no hotspot features such as user redirection, usage limits, required login, and so on. However, this book presents a scenario in which you can use free software to get these hotspot features at no cost, making an affordable hotspot solution if you have an extra PC available. However, you still have to purchase some equipment to use in conjunction with the free software. Factor in about $50 for this equipment when you are installing a small hotspot.
Installing a Wi-Fi hotspot to provide coverage for a large area, such as an entire library or hotel, might cost up to $1500 or more, depending on the number of access points that are needed to cover the area.
Although your time might not be a direct cost, your time is probably valuable. If it helps, you can assign a cost to the time you will spend installing and supporting your hotspot. Of course, you can always use evenings and weekends to install the system to avoid impacting your business.
The time involved in installing a hotspot also depends on the solution's size and complexity. This could take just an hour for a simple setup of a single wireless router covering a small area or several days to cover an entire building.
Keep in mind that you have to take time to support your hotspot. You never know when problems will pop up, whether someone will mistakenly unplug the wireless router or not know how to connect to the network. You might find yourself spending a few hours each month supporting your hotspot. In addition, you might need to spend some time upfront learning about how Wi-Fi works to effectively support your customers.