BRISBANE STARTUP VELVET CREATES AN 'UBER FOR WIFI'
11 November 2016, Written by Lin Evlin
DAVID Poxon, a Brisbane based entrepreneur has discovered a way for people to sell their unused home Internet data through a device he calls "hotshot."
Through this device, he hopes to create an online community, just like Uber and Airbnb, where people all around Australia can sell and use each other's Internet data.
Poxon's idea for his company, Velvet, spawned from frustrating experiences he encountered trying to access Internet when he was in France last year.
"I was in France at the start of last year and started working on my PHD. I was doing research but could never join those freely available wifi networks. I kept trying to get onto the Internet but I couldn't find a decent Internet connection," he says.
"And so I was thinking about my apartment here in Brisbane. I have NBN, it is an excellent service and I was thinking about how it was just sitting there. I was away for 6 weeks and my Internet was being wasted over this 6 week period when it could be shared with others."
Velvet's business model is predicated on building a online network of what he calls "sharers" and "subscribers". Sharers will need to purchase the 'hotshot' device which retails for $60.
The device connects to the home wifi and creates a separate secure wifi network which enables data sharing among Velvet subscribers.
Subscribers are billed $5 per gigabyte, $3.36 of that will be paid to the sharer and the remainder to Velvet.
Velvet is currently in public beta testing mode and Poxon says that the feedback he has received to date has been incredibly useful. He hopes the product will be rolled out to everyone next year.
"People are really on board with the idea. They love the device itself, they like the design," Poxon says.
"They are getting on board with what we are trying to do and we are receiving great feedback from people who are really excited about it. People want to be apart of the network."
The legality of it all
A large question mark which hangs over the business is whether or not people would be permitted under their Internet contracts to become a "sharer".
"It's a question we get asked a lot and the terms and condition from some Internet providers say that you can't share or re-sell your wifi or your Internet connection. There are definitely providers that have that," says Poxon.
"But there are also providers that are totally on board with our business and have no issue with it and then there are a couple of providers where it is a little grey.
"What we say to everyone that is thinking about buying a hotshot and sharing their wifi is, first, check the terms and conditions with your provider."
Poxon says that Velvet is unable to help customers determine whether or not they would be permitted under their Internet contract to share wifi for legal reasons.
He also confirmed that Australia's second largest telecommunications provider, Optus, has issued a letter to Velvet confirming that residential Optus customers are contractually not permitted to share wifi.
Poxon says, "we are still very new, and we are very small fish when it comes to the likes of the big players and over time, I hope that those companies see the positive impact we are having on the industry."
"I hope that they start to realise that what we are actually trying to do is very positive and that they come around."