AT&T just picked up Canadian WiFi gateway and solution provider Superclick Networks for $15 million dollars and the deal is curious as the company provides wireless solutions but not service for the hospitality, healthcare and retail markets. As you may recall, in November of 2008, AT&T also purchased leading WiFi provider Wayport and my take at the time was the deal signaled the importance of WiFi.
This transaction echoes this sentiment but it’s a bit different because it isn’t a service they are purchasing per se. The deal also shows the Ma Bell is looking outside the country for growth and isn’t afraid to do deals that are unexpected. Then again, it does tie in nicely with the Wayport side of the house.
It is worthwhile to note that hotels and conventions are generally areas of network congestion and as a result AT&T is making a relatively minor purchase which will help them provide WiFi service to customers where they need bandwidth the most. The reason here is obvious as the carrier is concerned it is running out of spectrum and WiFi is always cheaper than 3G and 4G.
So the more you can offload to WiFi and fiber, the better it is for the carrier – and as a side benefit, customers will see less battery drain on their devices.
AT&T’s argument regarding the T-Mobile USA acquisition is that the company is running out of spectrum and needs to acquire to get the needed frequencies to deal with all the traffic its customers generate. This small step further entrenches them in some markets where many of the company’s customers congregate.
It is worth noting that there is an important psychological factor at play here as well because conference goers – especially in the tech space have no problem trashing their carrier to others. In other words, it is bad to drop a customer’s call but worse to drop hundreds of customer calls where thousands of people congregate and can complain about the experience to others.
Expect AT&T to be more acquisitive in the WiFi space – I’m surprised this deal took so long to complete after Wayport.
A few other points of note – TMCnet covered the WiFi infrastructure company when they entered into an alliance with Vocera Communications last year allowing the companies to collaborate in selling wireless/voice solutions. One other point worth noting is that Paul Butcher formerly Mitel President and COO and interviewed by me in 2009 is on the advisory team of Superclick Networks and has been there just about 30 days. And finally, at least two law firms - The Briscoe Law Firm, PLLC and Powers Taylor, LLP are investigating the deal because they believe the price being paid may be too low.