Global Wi-Fi Hotspots To Increase Significantly By 2015
November 9, 2011

Global Wi-Fi Hotspots To Increase Significantly By 2015

Wi-Fi around the world is expected to grow more than four times what it is today by 2015, with nearly 6 million active hotspots, according to a report published today by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

The report was compiled by analyst firm Informa Telecoms & Media and includes a comprehensive survey of 259 service providers and Wi-Fi vendors.

The report reveals that global public Wi-Fi hotspots will balloon from 1.3 million in 2011, to nearly 5.8 million by 2015, an increase of 350 percent. The figures do not include ℠community hotspots,´ where users share their own Wi-Fi with other users.

Among the top growers will be China Mobile, which plans to deploy a million hotspots and Japan´s KDDI, which says will increase from 10,000 to 100,000 Wi-Fi hotspots within six months, according to the report.

The survey concluded the growth will most likely be concentrated in three types of areas: wide-area outdoor hot zones, local-area outdoor hot zones, and transport hubs.

Telecom operators see Internet hotspots crucial for offloading wireless data traffic, which is expected to grow 26-fold in the next five years, according to electronics technology and service company Cisco, as usage of video on mobile devices surges.

Mobile data growth is a key factor in the continuing surge of Wi-Fi hotspots. Global mobile data traffic is expected to reach 16.84 million terabytes by 2014, according to the report. The survey also found that smartphone connections to Wi-Fi hotspots will soon overtake laptops globally. Laptops currently represent 48 percent of the hotspot connection market; smartphones account for 36 percent; and tablet computers 10 percent.

Smartphones already outnumber laptop connections in North America, and they break even in Latin America.

But there are several barriers to adoption and use of public Wi-Fi hotspots, the report noted. Awkward authentication procedures, costs of access, user discovery of available networks, and security were among those barriers. One UK operator recently reported that only 20 percent of its users access the free public Wi-Fi hotspots available to them.

The report does, however, highlight that several challenges will be overcome by Next Generation Hotspots (NGH) which are currently in the trial phases. NGHs allow users to seamlessly roam between cellular and Wi-Fi networks using their mobile device´s SIM card as authentication, reducing concerns about authentication, network discovery and security.

“The findings show we are about to enter the golden age of public Wi-Fi with hotspot deployments set to soar. Fixed operators are extending broadband services beyond the home and office, and Wi-Fi is supporting busy mobile broadband networks. Next Generation Hotspot trials are making inroads in the remaining barriers and by cracking the code of a simple, secure user experience hotspot use will continue to soar,” said Chris Bruce, Chair of the WBA and CEO, BT Openzone.


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