Report: Worldwide carrier Wi-Fi hotspots to number 6.3M by year's end

As Wi-Fi hotspots proliferate, they are nicely positioned to pick up a growing share of mobile data traffic, according to fresh forecasts.

Worldwide carrier Wi-Fi deployments reached a total 4.9 million hotspots in 2012 and are anticipated to surpass 6.3 million by the end of 2013, said Khin Sandi Lynn, research analyst with ABI Research. Those numbers include Wi-Fi hotspots deployed by fixed-line and mobile carriers, as well as third-party operators such as Boingo and iPass.

"Wi-Fi has very much become a complement to 3G and 4G services and is now a mainstay of connectivity for the majority of smartphone, tablet and laptop users because it is often free in many public Wi-Fi locations," said the firm.

Of the total global Wi-Fi hotspots, 88 percent are located in Asia Pacific, followed by 8 percent in Europe, 3 percent in North America and 1 percent in the other regions, said ABI.

In addition, a new report from Juniper Research forecasts that almost 50 percent of data traffic generated by mobile phones, tablets and other 3G/4G connected devices will be offloaded to Wi-Fi and small cell networks this year. This is equivalent to 10 billion movie downloads or 9,000 petabytes (PB) per year being offloaded from mobile operators' networks.

Juniper predicted in a separate report released last month that only 40 percent of mobile data will be delivered via macro cellular networks by 2017, with the rest going over primarily Wi-Fi as well as small cells.

In its new report, Juniper noted that operators have been missing out on monetization opportunities as data is offloaded to other networks, prompting them to actively partner with existing Wi-Fi networks and launch their own carrier-grade Wi-Fi solutions.

The firm forecasts that mobile data traffic generated by smartphones, feature phones and tablets will exceed 90,000 PB by 2017. North America and Western Europe will have the highest offload factor throughout the forecast period.

For more:
- see this ABI release
- see this Juniper release

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