Towerstream turns NYC Wi-Fi network into app distribution platform

Wi-Fi provider Towerstream is turning its superfast Manhattan Wi-Fi zone into a distribution platform for daily deal apps in a bid to monetize its wireless network, the largest in Manhattan. The company is partnering with BlisMobile, which will handle the app distribution through its AppZone service.

Users who want to gain free Wi-Fi access will now be able to pick from a list of sponsors, whose apps must be downloaded in order to gain four hours of free Wi-Fi. If a user already has an app, they’ll need to view an ad to access the network. Daily deal providers will make up some of the major sponsors on the network, who will rent out a channel on Towerstream’s network of almost 1,500 access points. Users will be able to see daily deals that are targeted for their location in Manhattan.

The deal represents a new money-making opportunity for Towerstream, which has been looking primarily at being an offload solution for carriers. Jeff Thompson, CEO of Towerstream, said app distribution and advertising could ultimately be a bigger revenue driver than the offload business.

“We believe that connecting consumers with products that are in their proximity is invaluable. Our distribution network for daily deals not only drives downloads to mobile apps; it significantly expands the reach of daily deal sites and all mobile app providers by offering untapped users, a key ingredient for all parties,” Thompson said.

It’s an interesting way to use Wi-Fi networks to distribute apps and target specific local users. With daily deal sites competing fiercely for consumers, this is a way to get their discounts in front of people who can take advantage of them. This could also prove appealing for any large brand looking to drive downloads of their apps. BlisMobile counts Amazon(s amzn), Google(s goog), and eBay (s ebay) among its customers.

This shows the power of wireless and how it can be monetized in different ways. Especially as consumers face more data caps, free Wi-Fi access will be more appealing. Towerstream last year recorded days of more than 1 terabyte in usage and 21 million connections in a single quarter on its New York City network.

Also, for brands and companies, being able to target a location helps deliver very personalized and relevant messages. Towerstream isn’t segmenting its targeting by more than large neighborhoods, but it could theoretically break down offers to individual access points if it wanted to. The daily deals distribution service will likely be a big part of Towerstream’s business as it expands further in its 12 markets, starting next with San Francisco and Chicago.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Hooch