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Smartphone and tablets expected to drive global increase in Wi-Fi hotspots

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has published a report on the state of the global public Wi-Fi hotspot market.  The WBA is an industry association with a focus on driving next-gen Wi-Fi experience and consists of leading technology companies and mobile operators such as Google, Cisco, AT&T and StarHub. 

With a comprehensive survey of more than 250 service providers and Wi-Fi vendors included in the report, it concluded that there will be a 350% increase in the number of global public Wi-Fi hotspots by 2015.

Some of the key points mentioned in the report:

  • Wi-Fi hotspot numbers are set to grow from 1.3 million this year to 5.8 million by 2015
  • Smartphone connections to Wi-Fi hotspots are expected to overtake laptops. On a global basis, laptops currently account for 48% of connections to hotspots, while smartphones and tablets stand at 36% and 10% respectively.
  • Mobile data growth is a key factor to the rapid build-out of Wi-Fi hotspots. Its impact is mitigated primarily through new pricing strategies and Wi-Fi-based offload.

It is obvious that one primary driver of Wi-Fi hotspot growth is mobile operators keen to offload the tsunami of data generated by increasingly ubiquitous smartphones and tablet devices.  Indeed, these devices are set to eclipse Wi-Fi consumption by laptops on a per connection basis.

Cumbersome authentication was identified as one of the barriers towards greater adoption and use of public Wi-Fi hotspots.  However, this is expected to be overcome by Next Generation Hotspots (NGH) currently trialed around the world.  NGH allows users to roam between cellular and Wi-Fi networks seamlessly, using their handset's SIM authentication, and looks set to be the driving force behind public Wi-Fi hotspot deployments.

"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," says Chris Bruce, Chair of the WBA and CEO, BT Openzone in a prepared statement.  "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."

The full report "Global Developments in Public Wi-Fi WBA Industry Report, 2011" can be downloaded here (pdf).

Source: Korea Newswire

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