Strategy Analytics counts 25% of global households with Wi-Fi in 2014, but methods differ from iPass study

Here's one that might even stump the Count on Sesame Street. Earlier this week, iPass released research showing that France is the "country of Wi-Fi" with the most hotspots in total, followed by the U.S. and the UK.

However, Strategy Analytics later came out with a report showing the Netherlands as the No. 1 ranked region based on total household Wi-Fi penetration, with France ranking No. 7, the U.S. at No. 11 and the UK at No. 4. Clearly, someone's counting up the wrong tree. 

So, what gives? Of course, there's a perfectly rational explanation.

The iPass/Maravedis Rethink Research was focused on public Wi-Fi hotspots, an iPass spokeswoman explained. It looked at both commercial and community hotspots. Within community hotspots, it also looked at both public residential and business hotspots. "The key point is we were looking at public hotspots here--so in terms of community residential hotspots those homes that not only have Wi-Fi for domestic home use but that also open it up to be a public hotspot," she told FierceWirelessTech.

In a nutshell, the Strategy Analytics research is about all homes with Wi-Fi (not public Wi-Fi hotspots), whereas the iPass/Maravedis Rethink research is about public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Strategy Analytics Wi-Fi household ranking
iPass France Wi-Fi hotspots

Comparison: Excerpt from Strategy Analytics' report, top, vs. a screenshot from iPass' Wi-Fi Growth Map, bottom.

Eric Smith, the Strategy Analytics analyst involved in the research, said that while he could not comment on the other firm's methodology, he believes the numbers are in the same ballpark. "For example, they count 13 million community Wi-Fi hotspots in France, while we count 17 million Wi-Fi home networks in France," he told FierceWirelessTech.

Strategy Analytics says 25 percent of global households have Wi-Fi in 2014, with more than 450 million households worldwide with Wi-Fi networks set up, a 5 percent increase from 2013.

A note about Strategy Analytics methodology: It counts the number of fixed-line broadband households with Wi-Fi routers to get to the final results. Therefore, countries with a high penetration of fixed-line broadband generally rank higher in the top 10 list because a greater percentage of total households are in play to then operate a Wi-Fi network, Smith explained. On the flip side, a country like China has far and away the most fixed-line broadband households in the world, but the number is dwarfed by the total number of households in addition to relatively lower rates of Wi-Fi router penetration.

Specifically, the Strategy Analytics research shows the Netherlands with 80.4 percent total household Wi-Fi penetration, followed by South Korea with 76.4 percent and Norway with 76.2 percent. The United Kingdom is at 72.1 percent, and No. 11 on the list is the U.S. with 57.8 percent penetration.

Smith said it's possible that the U.S. could move up the ranks to the No. 10 spot by 2018, but he doesn't expect big changes. "We see all the countries advancing at a pretty decent rate," he said.

Contrary to common perception, not all consumers have embraced Wi-Fi networks in their homes despite the fact that global connected devices per household stand at 5.5 in 2014, Smith said. "Wi-Fi router adoption in fixed-line broadband households still has much room to grow globally," he said. As prices fall and Wi-Fi technologies continue to advance, the expectation is for nearly 80 percent of fixed-line broadband households to have established Wi-Fi networks by 2018.

Community Wi-Fi remains a controversial topic, however, leading some to question whether partitioning home access point signals will eventually cause quality of service issues. Companies like iPass like it because it means more users of Wi-Fi, but others are not so sure it's best for the consumer.

For more:
- see this Strategy Analytics release
- see this iPass release

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