Wi-Fi: drive-thru wireless on the go

The number of worldwide “hotspots” for high-speed wireless internet or Wi-Fi is expected to grow to at least 160 000 in 2007 from 28 000 this year, a market research firm said on Thursday.

Allied Business Intelligence (ABI) said its study indicates the number could be even greater than 160 000 “depending on mainstream consumer adoption”.

In recent months, Wi-Fi access points have been multiplying in cafes, hotels and restaurants as a means of offering those with mobile computers access to the web.

ABI said the market is still plagued by problems of interoperability—users often need to subscribe to several service providers to get access.

It predicted that revenue generated by this market has the potential to grow by as much as 121% over the next five years.

“There is tremendous momentum building, but this should not be mistaken for over-hype, as many players in the market are facing the reality of commercial deployments,” said ABI, based in Oyster Bay, New York.

“In order for this industry to continue its growth, it has to more clearly communicate the technology’s benefits to end-users, in order to generate wide scale adoption,” said Tim Shelton, ABI’s director of wireless research.

Selling Wi-Fi services combined with cellular and other operator offerings could help stimulate consumer interest in hotspots.

Shelton said, “There are some terrific opportunities for operators to start bundling services, offering consumers a more data intensive usage model, as well as a more compelling package of benefits and value.”

In the US, telecom group Verizon announced plans on Tuesday to equip 1 000 of its pay phones in New York with access points for “Wi-Fi” high-speed wireless internet.
McDonald’s, Starbucks and other chains have been offering the service as well. - Sapa-AFP

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