Wifi hotspots set for growth surge

This year, the number of wifi hotspots worldwide will grow by nearly 25 per cent to 179,500, according to forecasts from ABI Research.

While almost three quarters of these sites are in North America and Europe, the Asia Pacific region is growing very rapidly, despite the fact that growth in China has been much slower than originally thought.

The Asia Pacific region will come close to matching the number of North American hotspots by 2012, ABI predicts.

Europe presently leads the pack, with over 70,000 hotspots, driven mainly by the deployment of retail hotspots. McDonalds is making rapid progress in turning its 4,000 restaurant locations into hotspots.

“The growing wifi hotspot market is fuelling a demand for wifi access points,” said ABI Research vice president Stan Schatt. “More than 900,000 access points will be shipped this year specifically for use in hotspots. Not only are hotspot and subscriber numbers growing, but we have observed a dramatic increase in the number of wifi sessions per subscriber. This means that subscribers are connecting more often to check their email and surf the internet.”

ABI believes that voice-over-wifi will become an attractive choice for many major hotel chains, both for guests and for their staff. With almost 46,000 hotspots worldwide, the hospitality industry has already embraced wifi.

“Carriers will have to adjust their business models to deal with consumers who will trade expensive cell phone minutes for free voice over wifi calls via hotspots,” Schatt said.

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