What Is Visitor Based Networking (VBN)?

woman sitting in hotel lobby using VBN on her smartphone with luggage next to her

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Today’s audiences are more and more mobile, and there is a greater dependence on digital tools like cloud storage, whether for work or personal use.

The majority of Americans now have a cellphone (97%) and 85% have a smartphone of some kind. In addition, more people are working from remote locations than ever before, with one estimate reporting that one in four Americans will work remotely in 2021. It is thus important that any company or institution with public spaces offer some kind of networking capability to ensure that customers can always be connected using their personal devices. 

Visitor based networking (VBN) is one method used by organizations to deliver mobile high-speed internet access to public areas. VBN has become more common as more people are working from their mobile devices and need access to Wi-Fi from locations outside the office or home. VBN prioritizes visitors, who usually do not need to have long-term access but often only for a short time while they’re in the public space.

With the emergence and growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), it is becoming not just a convenience but a must for businesses to ensure that all of their public spaces provide some kind of access to the internet for users entering and exiting the space. 

Here is an overview of how VBN works and six of the key benefits of VBN.

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How VBN works

VBN offers a network that gives temporary wireless or ethernet internet to public locations where workers or travelers can have simple, hassle-free internet access. Users can connect via their mobile devices, whether on a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or similar, or a PC if using ethernet connections. Here are a few more considerations about VBN:

Types of VBN

The service users receive using VBN is only temporary. A user often has to pay a fee to get Wi-Fi (known as billing VBN), and then they don’t have to do much setup or configuration to get access quickly. Transparent VBN, on the other hand, is set up to deliver network services without a lot of security protection but offers fast and convenient access, and these are usually free hotspots or free guest Wi-Fi networks. An authentication VBN requires a user to authenticate with the VBN gateway to gain access to the network. This is typically the most secure version of VBN since it requires a security code or a remote authentication dial-in user service (RADIUS).

Uses of VBN

VBN is common for organizations that have public spaces where people will want to be connected. These may include:

  • Hotels
  • Airports
  • Malls
  • Universities
  • Convention centers
  • Conference rooms
  • Offices
  • And the like

These locations have lots of visitors coming and going, so the format works nicely to offer them temporary service while they’re traveling or waiting. VBN offers flexibility to accommodate an increasingly flexible workforce or client base.

6 Benefits of VBN

Man sitting in a lounge using VBN on his laptop

There are many reasons why an organization would decide to offer a VBN over other networking options. Sometimes the most important factor for internet users is convenience, especially when they’re traveling and are in a pinch. Another reason may be to protect the original network from security threats that lots of outside devices may bring. Here are six additional benefits of using VBN:

1. Easy to Create

One of the biggest benefits of VBNs is that any ethernet LAN can be turned into a VBN just by adding a server, or what’s known as a VBN gateway.

2. Minimal Configuration

VBNs are easy for users to access and require little to no mobile device configuration. The VBN gateway allows visitors to quickly access payment options and integrate applications without issue.

3. Business Opportunity

Billing VBNs allow companies to make a profit on these types of networks, since users cannot access the internet without paying a fee for temporary service. One common example is a user paying a one-time fee to use the internet while they’re on a flight. They don’t need service through that particular network after the flight is over, so in this case a VBN makes sense, and they may be more likely to pay for that convenience.

4. Additional Feature Integration

VBNs will often include additional services for users like printing or customer support while they’re using the network. This adds a lot more draw for visitors if they are contemplating making a purchase for temporary internet access and allows them to take care of lots of tasks while they’re in a public space.

5. Device Compatibility

Today’s internet users try to connect with a range of devices, from smartphones to computers to tablets. A VBN allows them to connect on any of these devices, providing more flexibility for their preferences. 

6. Greater Focus on the Customer

VBNs help companies like hotels and airports prioritize the needs of their audiences by offering this quick and convenient format for internet access

VBN is a great option for distributing a network in a public space, and allows for an organization or third party to turn temporary access into a viable business. There are always security considerations to keep in mind, however, whether you are trying to connect to guest Wi-Fi or other network. Remember that you always need a plan for backing up or erasing sensitive files that you may not need anymore.

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