WiFi technology is destined to become much more commonplace across Europe as an increasing number of hotels, airports, retail stores and fast food outlets roll out wireless local area networks (WLANs).
According to wireless research company ON World, there will be 174,000 such hotspots in Europe by 2009, generating $2.5 billion through a combination of user subscription fees and venue-derived revenues.
“Hotspots are a way for European fixed line operators to extend their broadband networks and for mobile operators to finally profit from their 3G investments,” says Colin Carroll, a senior researcher for ON World.
US-based ON World believes that the European environment is ideal for offering public broadband access because of its concentrated population, high mobile phone usage and ‘café culture’.
Although WiFi take-up is starting slowly due to high access costs and limited roaming, by 2009 15% of all European hotspot customers will be frequent users – defined as those who use a WLAN more than four times a month. That is up from 3% in 2003. By that stage, hotspot subscription revenues alone will be worth $898 million across Europe.
Today, hotspot adoption rates are highest in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Growth is expected to accelerate in eastern Europe, where levels of mobile phone adoption are high and home broadband services are yet to be widely rolled out.