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Wi-com (Understanding Motivations of Wireless Communities Participants). Wireless Communities are an interesting phenomena which recently emerged thanks to the wide-spread diffusion of private wireless networks and flat-rate broadband Internet connections.
They aim at creating community networks by sharing private WLAN access points among their members.

Project owner: Lorenzo Cantoni (USI), Siegfried Alberton (SUPSI)

Project staff: Giovanni Camponovo (SUPSI), Anna Picco (USI), Stefano Tardini (USI)

Period: 1 January 2010 – 31 December 2011

Funding agency: SNF – Swiss National Science Foundation

Project site: www.wi-com.org
Aim of the project is to investigate the motivations that drive participants in wireless communities to join the community, keep on being part of it and share their wireless connection with other members. To do so, a blend of quantitative and qualitative methodologies will be used.

Understanding what motivates members to join and actively participate in a Wireless Community is a key research issue for identifying their possible developments and sustained existence as one of the major challenges of these communities is the ability to reach a critical mass of members and motivate them to share their access points and internet connections.

One of the main problems of the so-called “Pure” Communities (purely self-organized wireless communities) is the difficulty of attracting enough members and motivating them to share their resources with the community. As opposed to this a new “Hybrid” form of wireless communities is now emerging. These communities are still based on individuals who share their own network infrastructure, but they are supported by a firm that offers them incentives such as revenue sharing, security, equipment and free network access. In return the firm is allowed to exploit the network by selling connectivity to non members, selling hardware or advertising. The success of Hybrid Wi-Coms suggests the importance of overcoming the motivation issue by recompensing members with suitable incentives.