Smartphones drive Wi-Fi hotspot growth

With operators, particularly O2 UK, experiencing problems with 3G network overload, the number of Wi-Fi hotspots are being forecast to grow rapidly as smartphone users search out alternative connectivity routes.

The UK-based BT Openzone network, which runs 4,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots, has revealed that its data traffic had doubled during 2009 and expected more of the same in 2010. The company claimed that the mass market adoption of Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones had significantly altered hotspot usage, with these devices accounting for the majority of access sessions in some locations.

Commenting on this trend, In-Stat analyst, Frank Dickson, said that mobile operators had become increasingly involved in the hotspot market globally as they assessed the potential of hotspots to offload wireless data traffic from overburdened 3G networks. "A market that appeared to be languishing due to revenue shortcomings has found a renewed life force."

With 3G networks struggling to keep up with smartphone data usage, mobile operators are increasingly offering mobile broadband packages that include free Wi-Fi minutes to encourage customers away from using the 3G connection.

In-Stat recently estimated that global hotspot usage would increase in 2009 by 47 per cent and bring total worldwide connections to 1.2 billion. Total worldwide hotspot venues have already reached approximately 245,000 locations in 2009.

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