Netgear, Facebook Partner on WiFi for Small Businesses

By Nathan Eddy

Network specialist Netgear and social media giant Facebook are partnering to help bring WiFi to the customers of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) through an application that enables merchants to provide free Internet access to their customers when they "check in" at the business’ Facebook Page.

Netgear will roll out Facebook WiFi capability on four of its next-generation dual-band 802.11ac wireless routers over the coming months, including the Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi Router (R7000), which supports approximate combined Gigabit WiFi speeds up to 1900M bps and sells for $199.99.

Upon first connecting to the router’s wireless signal, customers, guests and visitors will land directly on the company’s Facebook Page, where they will be asked to check in and have the option to like the page before they begin using the Internet.

No special codes are needed, and the customer has the option to automatically check in for free WiFi on return visits. This means businesses can continue to reach their customers with future posts, announcements, coupons and other news.

If customers wish to skip Facebook WiFi check-in, the business owner still has the option to "gate" the Internet connection with a business-provided code, or even to offer free WiFi without a passcode.

Businesses can also share special promotions on their Facebook Page so the offers are the first things customers see when they check in.

"We’re very happy with our Netgear router as it was amazingly easy to set up, and since it offers 802.11ac wireless, it’s powerful enough to support our customers’ demands for Gigabit WiFi speeds for faster downloads," Jean Paul Coupal, co-founder at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, Calif., said in a statement. "Having the Facebook WiFi log-in capability is really the icing on the cake. Since we began using Facebook WiFi, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of check-ins to our Facebook Page, and are seeing much more online engagement with our customers."

The increased speed of 802.11ac technology is ideal for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets by providing up to three times the performance for a similar amount of battery consumption of devices using the current 802.11n WiFi standard.

Owners of dual-band mobile devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and Apple devices such as MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone will see enhanced performance with 802.11ac routers.

"Cafes, book stores, barber shops and other small businesses have been providing WiFi to their clientele for several years," David Henry, vice president of product management for Netgear’s retail business, said in a statement. "We’re adding the Facebook WiFi login to our newest line of premium dual-band 802.11ac routers to encourage merchants to take better advantage of this benefit they’re already offering. They develop a stronger bond with customers and extend brand visibility with each check-in that appears in Facebook News Feed."

Other Netgear gateways that will support the Facebook WiFi log-in include the R6300 Smart WiFi Router, which supports approximate combined Gigabit WiFi speeds up to 1750M bps and retails for $179.99, and the R6200 and R6250, which both retail for $149.99.

This article was originally published on 2014-01-13