Zero-rating network infrastructure

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7 December 2017

Shopping malls, stadiums, arenas, conference and function venues all strive to improve the consumer experience. WiFi, Small cells and beacons work together with IoT and Digital Marketing platforms towards zero-rating infrastructure. Zero-rating implies that the data service is offered to consumers free of charge, where other revenues cover the cost of ownership.


Telecom operators have spent the last 30 years and more building infrastructure to enable mobility. Consumer electronics companies have for the last 10 years caused data consumption over this infrastructure to grow exponentially, thanks to the introduction of smartphones. Enabling mobile data has had an even deeper impact on other industries, with consumers increasingly using the mobile device as a preferred choice for shopping, banking and obtaining other services.

The consumer expectation for data coverage has evolved, with research showing that loading time for apps and websites triggers a significant increase in human stress levels. This puts tremendous pressure on operators to increase their data capacity. However, investing in further infrastructure is costly, and there are no clear ways to market any new network features.

Venues, unlike other areas place varied stress levels on these networks. During events, the demand for capacity is high, and bound to increase with consumer’s digital behaviour. Venues have to find a way to satisfy the coverage and capacity demand.

The choice of connectivity for a majority of venues remains WiFi. It’s relatively inexpensive to deploy and maintain, and it can provide a substantial increase in capacity for the consumer. Whatever the technology, it is vital to ensure return on any infrastructure investment, especially for venues, as they have no experience in marketing connectivity.


The most obvious approach for many venues is to make use of the advertising value potential. Technologies such as WiFi offer a number of ad inventory options, i.e. over splash screens, overlays or within mobile applications owned by the venue. But these just like a majority of online or digital inventory spaces are diminishing in value, and generating any significant revenue relies on sheer volume, which venues cannot sustain around the clock.

Programmatic advertising is also prevailing with media buyers as a preferred way to purchase ad space. Its yield heavily relies on targeting and accuracy of consumer data.

Mobile ad channels

There is no doubt that a mobile device presents enormous marketing opportunities. Since the adoption of smartphones and introduction of the app market over the last 10 years, the mobile device has triggered evolution of many industries, from music, banking, gaming to many others. Advertising has also evolved, with brands now having the power to quickly measure conversion, promote and sell their products through digital services, and get deeper campaign insights.

WiFi connectivity presents a few unique mobile advertising opportunities. Connection to a WiFi hotspot can trigger a splash page through the web browser of a mobile device. With web technology such as HTML5, these pages can be powerful applications.

Another advertising opportunity is web-browser overlay. Overlays can contain dynamic content, permanently fixed within the browser’s viewing area. Since it is dynamic, it can act as a marketing space, navigation bar specific to the venue, or even a sales channel for digital services.

Many venues these days also offer mobile apps, offering their consumers exclusive content and services. WiFi channels and mobile apps can link between each other, providing further potential for campaign insights.

Digital Out of Home

Digital Out of Home, signage and billboards arguably present the biggest opportunity for creating ad value. However, a majority of digital screens these days cycle through fixed ad content. In order to implement dynamic content that can be changed in real time, digital screens need to be fully connected to the advertising ecosystem.

Unlike mobile or online advertising, Digital out of home is not yet fully programmatic, though it is trending in that direction.

IoT, Beacons and Physical web

Internet of Things (IoT) implies that all digital devices are connected, and able to talk to one another. Although IoT adoption is still in its infancy, technologies that can enable it already exist today.

Beacons and physical web devices are able to connect consumer’s mobile device to other digital physical devices. Establishing a connection between Digital Out of Home and a mobile device can lead to a multitude of applications, enhancing access to public safety, news and marketing information.


The most vital data to advertisers is one that can translate to purchase intent. Real time location data is particularly valuable. The programmatic ecosystem is so vast that linkage of data is a complex task, but in any case, the more data that can be used, the higher potential for ad revenue yield.

Connectivity infrastructure can provide location data, while mobile and other digital behaviour can provide consumer interest. These data sources, combined with the ability to dynamically change ad content presents valuable marketing opportunities. However, the realisation of this opportunity also requires real-time big data analytics.


Adoption of new technologies needs to be carefully considered. Despite the abundance of technology, success factors with these opportunities will largely depend on commercialisation of their supporting systems.

Sponsors, Merchants and Retailers

Digital marketing does not only present monetisation opportunities through ad agencies and programmatic advertising. Venues have an established ecosystem of sponsors, merchants and retailers. Furthermore, the relationships that venues hold can be a key success factor in commercialising digital marketing.

Since venues establish long term contracts with their sponsors on how their marketing content is presented, a new set of digital services need to be developed.


Data is a key success factor. Understanding and correlating data to business related metrics is what ultimately dictates success. But owning data also presents further opportunities.

Local businesses, councils and government entities can benefit from understanding traffic flow, ad agencies look for ways to measure brand sentiment, and research firms support their surveys with real data. Use of data however needs to comply with privacy policies, and lawful anonymising plays a vital role.

Subscription access

Although not a popular choice with consumers, wireless connectivity can be sold through a subscription. Venues may consider packaging these subscription services to regular visitors and members.


Ultimately, in today’s world much of the infrastructure is shared. Investing in it also provides potential of on-selling to multi-vendor network operators. In this case, careful capacity and coverage planning becomes a key success factor.


With consumer’s digital behaviour driving ICT adoption, connectivity for venues presents challenges but also opportunities. Advertising, technology and applications all need to come together in order to create sufficient monetisation value and drive towards zero-rating. Shopping malls, stadiums, arenas, conference and function venues all have different business models; understanding and recognising opportunities within these models is what will ultimately drive success of ICT adoption.

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