Yesterday was the launch of Vex Canada, a division of global Wi-Fi operator Vex Corporation. They’ve got a unique approach to the hotspot business, based around advertising. To start, they’ve partnered with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats:
After running pilot programs in a variety of locations across Canada, today’s announcement about the Hamilton Tiger-Cats marks an important milestone for Vex Canada. The partnership will allow stadium attendees, including fans watching Tiger-Cats games, to access free Wi-Fi through a stadium-wide HotSpot facilitated by Vex Canada. This will enable attendees to access the Internet using smart phones and laptops without incurring data charges.
The Vex model is different than hotspots you might have used in the past. Vex aims to marry a hotspot provider such as a coffee shop with advertisers. While the company is open to smaller-scale local advertising, the goal is to do national advertising wherever possible. Vex wants to build a national, ad-supported Wi-Fi network.
Vex started in Brazil in 2002, and has since grown to over 8000 hotspots in more than 35 countries. The model varies from country to country, depending on the local circumstances (users in some countries pay a fee, while users in other countries see ads).
I had the opportunity to meet Asif Khan, the Toronto-based entrepreneur charged with managing Vex Canada, a few months ago. He definitely brings passion to the table, and has been traveling across the country in recent months learning about what already exists (such as the Free Wi-Fi project here in Edmonton) and meeting with Wi-Fi leaders. Asif told me that Vex evaluated a number of models for Canada before finally settling on the ad-supported one.
I share Asif’s vision for Wi-Fi everywhere, and I’m eager to see if Vex can deliver on that. Wi-Fi providers in Canada haven’t been very successful thus far, and combined with the occasional discussion about municipality provided Wi-Fi, Vex faces an uphill battle. Asif has setup a blog for Vex Canada, and is an active user of Twitter too, so it’s easy to follow along.