The Wireless Athens Group Zone – WAGZone, is a wireless local area network that’s built around 24 blocks of downtown in the small city of Athens, Georgia. It started as an experiment for the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute. The project took about 18 months to build. Having 9 Wi-Fi transmission boxes spread around the downtown, WAGZone can be accessed with laptops and PDAs fitted with wireless networking cards. University of Georgia students and faculty also have access to the Internet through it, but it isn’t meant to replace roles of ISPs. It’s hoped that the project will succeed and expand to include more users, not just University of Georgia students and staff.

The WAGZone’s first application, Nimbus, is a service that lets student hanging in the downtown areas locate their friends or their “buddies” if they are also in the area, given that they are also using the service. For example, one can know which café his friend is at, or which of his friends are going to a certain concert. This service is useful for socializing and interacting with friends. The WAGZone also includes a musical information (tour) and entertainment.

With respect to eliminating distances and boundaries, the Athens experiment attempts to “marry wireless and place”, and not just eliminate distance like wireless technology does. Moreover, it doesn’t even require very hi-tech technology.

The WAGZone can also be used to advertise and make money. Some businesses have even made a simple storefront on the “zone” where users can look and see as a first step, but not yet buy items and carry out transactions. There are a lot of possibilities that are waiting to be realized, many businesses are interested in the project, but the main concern of the creators is how to make money and avoid risk. If expanded and developed to include businesses, the WAGZone will definitely improve the city’s economy, businesses, popularity and prosperity, and if other cities start using similar technology, a new revolutionary way of life would be created.

Can this Case Be Applied At AUB?

Technically, this case can be applied at AUB because AUB can get the technology, and the idea would be nice… But it would be best not to apply the case at the current time for many reasons:

  1. Right now (in 2003) PDAs and laptops and such hardware are expensive and not really very popular among students or faculty.
  2. AUB already has a website to post announcements and stuff, and there are many computer labs spread all around campus.
  3. Implementing the system would have its costs…
  4. AUB’s campus is large compared to other universities, but compared to a whole downtown area, would the system really be worth the trouble?

Unless it charges a fee for students who wish to enroll in it, AUB wouldn’t be able to really benefit from the service financially because that would require advertisements from other businesses.

Obstacles & Solutions

Obstacle: PDAs, palms and laptops needed to use the WAGZone are relatively expensive (in 2003), so not all people will be able to afford them
Solution: In the future, they are probably going to get cheaper, and might become more common.

Obstacle: The risk of competing systems, since it’s easy to set up a similar one.
Solution:  Negotiate the issue and make them part of WAGZone, or discuss with the municipality the possibility of allowing only one system of the type in the city.

Obstacle: Risk of hackers and the trade-off between cost and security.
Solution: Having a good firewall, and not having a lot of confidential data that needs protecting on the WAGZone, since it is not intended to be used indoors or privately as the Internet.

Obstacle: Luring wireless companies(carriers and content providers) to a wide-open startup.
Solution: Since the idea of the WAGZone is a good one, and can later on be used to make money, companies will be willing to invest.

Obstacle: It can be hard to figure out how to benefit from the Zone commercially and make money.
Solution: Business owners are willing to do it. They will probably come up with many ideas, so the Zone can charge money for advertising or future transactions, after the service becomes really popular.




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