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FreeWiFi8 Transforms to SaaS Using CloudCampus

By Niu Zenghui, President, FreeWiFi8

FreeWiFi8 is a Chinese network operator that controls its own bandwidth resources, specializing in Wi-Fi construction and operation, hybrid cloud networking, and delivery of smart business ecosystems. By cooperating with ICT vendors such as Huawei, FreeWiFi8 has constructed Wi-Fi networks for over 40 different customers in Beijing, including large shopping malls, franchise chains (cinemas and coffee shops), hospital campuses, railway stations, and office buildings.

Free Wi-Fi platforms provided by FreeWiFi8

Saturated Traditional Markets

In recent years, FreeWiFi8 has felt fierce market competition in the market for enterprise leased lines, where a raging price war has driven profit margins down. The local market for Wi-Fi installations throughout Beijing’s office and enterprise campus sectors is increasingly saturated. Due to increased competitive pressures FreeWiFi8 faces rising professional labor costs and a difficulty to maintain revenue growth when compared to the original, high margin business model.

What needed to change?

The industry trend shows that profitability is shifting from the traditional network service market upward to the application service market. Shopping malls, supermarkets, and other enterprise campuses now require more than just simple stability and reliability. The most important current need is for a complete set of integrated solutions that enable them to stay focused on their core business success. Driven by these new needs, traditional network operators find themselves competing over diversity of services and creating the highest value for customers and end users. It is only in this way that network operators such as FreeWiFi8 will remain profitable and stand above the competition.

FreeWiFi8 Paves the Way to SaaS

FreeWiFi8 has accumulated customers by building Wi-Fi campus networks, leasing bandwidth, and leasing and selling network devices. As the momentum of digital transformation began to impact industry, FreeWiFi8 also found the urgent need to recover lost profits by expanding to provide a diverse suite of SaaS applications to its existing customer base.

In the enterprise campus sector, FreeWiFi8 provides basic network solutions and SaaS-provisioned upper-layer application solutions to many small- and medium-sized customers. As an example for startup customers, FreeWiFi8 provides basic enterprise office applications, including attendance over Wi-Fi, intelligent access control, printing, and food orders. Additionally, FreeWiFi8 offers rich applications such as precision marketing designed around user profiles, advertisements, online and offline services, and mobile payment support.

During the requirements specification phase of the transformation, FreeWiFi8 determined that the Huawei CloudCampus solution was the product that would best serve the intended result. The CloudCampus solution provides a unified platform for managing multiple tenant networks and offers open data and northbound Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The unified platform was quickly and easily configured to interoperate with FreeWiFi8’s SaaS platform to seamlessly integrate data and computing resources. This interoperability is necessary to help FreeWiFi8 develop richer office and business applications with short turnaround times, provide complete solutions to its customers, and ultimately accomplish the goal of transforming a comprehensive SaaS provider.

Huawei solution enables fast network deployment

Reduced O&M Cost

Following the transformation of FreeWiFi8 into a SaaS provider, the company is able to expand its focus into the neighboring provinces and cities, driven by an increasingly saturated Beijing market. However, moving into these neighboring markets imposes the immediate requirement to develop the high skills necessary for network deployment and maintenance personnel. Network planning, device installation, commissioning, configuration, and on-site acceptance phases for a single site can take from one to four weeks in a typical situation. Accounting for the teams’ current skills gap, without the benefit of the CloudCampus solution, FreeWiFi8 would be limited to deploying as few as a dozen sites per year, dramatically slowing the expected rate of market expansion.

Huawei’s CloudCampus solution helps FreeWiFi8 accelerate market expansion by providing cloud-based network planning, configuration, and acceptance tools. By leveraging these tools, FreeWiFi8 can migrate all local network deployment work to the cloud management platform and complete such work remotely from the cloud. On-site personnel can use a mobile App to deploy APs at planned installation positions and scan AP barcodes to import device information to the cloud management platform. Then, the platform automatically delivers all configurations to APs and initiates automatic radio calibration. The network deployment time is greatly shortened to mere days, where most of the labor is installation and cabling. Additionally, network deployment does not require professional IT personnel.

Huawei’s CloudCampus solution integrates GIS maps into the cloud management platform and also offers a rich variety of cloud Preventive Maintenance Inspection (PMI) and O&M tools. These offerings allow the remote management and maintenance of tenant networks, significantly reducing on-site maintenance, as well as decreasing the number of members required in the professional O&M team from dozens to only a few. Consequently, network O&M costs are lowered by as much as 80 percent.

By leveraging Huawei’s CloudCampus solution, FreeWiFi8 has accelerated its transformation into a SaaS provider, including the reduction of operating costs, support for expansion into desired markets, and, ultimately, staying ahead of a fierce tide of digital transformation competitors.

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