Wi-Fi hotspots to grow 350% by 2015 driven by smartphone and tablet adoption

The global public Wi-Fi hotspot numbers are
set to grow from 1.3 million in 2011, to 5.8 million by 2015, a 350 percent

The number does not include ‘community
hotspots’, where users share their own Wi-Fi access point with others, which
add an additional 4.5 million worldwide, according to Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), an industry association focused on driving the next generation Wi-Fi

China Mobile plans to deploy a million
hotspots, while Japan’s KDDI plans to grow its 10,000 Wi-FI hotspots to 100,000
within six months.

This growth will be concentrated in three
types of location: wide-area outdoor hotzones; local-area outdoor hotzones; and
transport hubs.

58 percent of operators including 47
percent of mobile operators believe Wi-Fi hotspots are either very important or
crucial to their customers’ experience; offload busy mobile broadband networks;
and provide a value-added services platform.

Mobile data growth is a key factor in the
rapid build-out of Wi-Fi hotspots. Global mobile data traffic is expected to
reach 16.84 million terabytes by 2014. Operators plan to manage the impact of
this growth primarily through new pricing strategies and Wi-Fi-based offload.

Smartphone connections to Wi-Fi hotspots
will soon overtake laptops globally. Laptops now represent less than half of
the connections to hotspots, smartphones account for 36 percent and tablets 10

In APAC and North America smartphones
already outnumber laptop connections. While in Latin America, smartphones and
laptop connections currently break even. Respondents don’t expect LTE mobile
broadband deployments to have an impact on the growth of Wi-Fi hotspots.

There are several barriers to adoption and
use of public Wi-Fi hotspots. Cumbersome authentication procedures, costs of
access, user discovery of available networks and security were listed.

One UK operator recently reported that only
20 percent of its users access the free public hotspots available to them.

Several challenges will be overcome by Next
Generation Hotspots (NGH) which are currently being trialed internationally.
These allow users to seamlessly roam between cellular and Wi-Fi networks using
their mobile handset’s SIM card as authentication, reducing concerns about
authentication, network discovery and security. Operators are also reducing the
cost of access by increasingly offering public Wi-Fi as part of broadband or
cellular packages.

“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.

By Telecomlead.com Team

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