Excerpted from the 2006 Credit Union Technology Survey
Most people associate wi-fi with Starbucks hot spots, a hotel room, or an airport. Increasingly, cities across the world have been deploying “wi-fi clouds” over their communities.
A wi-fi cloud is expanding the Starbucks hot spot concept by applying it to cover an entire community. For example, a resident of Philadelphia will soon be able to travel anywhere within the city’s 135 square miles and be able to check email or search the Internet.
These networks provide the ultimate level of mobility, allowing for communitywide connectivity. The momentum of these initiatives cannot be understated, as it is estimated that by 2010, 35% of the U.S. population will have access to a wi-fi cloud.
Why Credit Unions are Becoming Involved
Credit union participation in wireless networks is caused by a convergence of four factors:
1) Slow credit union growth
2) Renewed community interest in the Internet
3) Wireless connectivity becoming a standard
4) Credit unions’ desire to invest in their communities
What Value Can Wi-Fi Bring Credit Unions?
The fundamental reason credit unions need to participate in these projects is to increase the access and awareness of the credit union. This will lead to increased membership and a higher percentage of wallet share from current members.
Ways for Credit Unions to Participate
There are two main ways for credit unions to participate in wireless networks:
Owning and operating the network: In small deployments of less than a few square miles, a credit union can deploy a network and outsource all the technical aspects at a reasonable price. Using this model, credit unions would have complete control over who gets on the network and what they see. This model provides the most flexibility in creating business models to produce a ROI; however, it also depends on credit unions supplying the capital.
Partnering: In many cities, it may not be cost effective for credit unions to deploy all the capital required to own the network. There are companies such as EarthLink whose business model is geared toward building these networks. By partnering with these companies, credit unions would be able to provide access to members, segments of the community, or whomever they choose. This lowers the risk to the credit union, yet the upside potential for capturing new members and expanding market share is quite high.
Credit unions are looking for new ways to grow, serve the communities, and ultimately better their communities. Wireless networks are coming, with or without credit unions. It is up to credit unions to realize the opportunities participating in wireless networks can bring. Credit unions could be the leader in a financial services community-building revolution!
Jon Jeffreys and Scott Patterson from Callahan & Associates will be presenting, “The Credit Union Wi-Fi Opportunity”, at the World Council of Credit Unions in Dublin. For more information contact: email@example.com
Technology is a key driver of both member service and organizational efficiency in credit unions today. Callahan’s 2006 Credit Union Technology Survey provides credit unions and technology vendors with data and insights on this and similar topics -- including data processing, payment systems, eStrategies and internet security.