For the first time, smartphones has overtaken laptops as the most popular way to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots, according to a report compiled by Informa Telecoms & Media and released by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). The study also found that a fifth of operators surveyed plan to launch next generation hotspots by the end of 2013.
The WBA focused its report on the next generation Wi-Fi experience, noting that this trend is set to accelerate as the industry moves toward the deployment of next generation hotspots (NGH), based on open industry standards.
WBA stated that the industry is moving toward new standards to make it easier to access Wi-Fi networks at home and abroad; operators want to deploy NGH technology to make it easier for end users to access Wi-Fi hotspots and replicate the cellular mobile broadband experience in terms of ease of access and security.
The association noted operators’ ongoing commitment to integrating Wi-Fi into their overall mobile broadband service. Operators are seeing as much as 75% of home traffic being carried over to the Wi-Fi network compared with just 5% outdoors. As signing on to public Wi-Fi networks becomes easier, the percentage of Wi-Fi-based Internet access outdoors is also expected to grow.
Data survey highlights:
- Hotspot connections are now led by smartphones (40%), followed closely by laptops (39%) and then tablets (17%).
- There is rapid deployment of NGH, based on Passpoint™ certified equipment, with 19% of operator respondents planning to deploy NGH by the end of 2013.
- Of all respondents, 43% described themselves as “more bullish” over the last year about future investment in public Wi-Fi technology.
- 75% of operator respondents see major potential of Wi-Fi roaming in the future, since currently less than 10% of their overall user base connects to hotspots while travelling.
- Future public Wi-Fi hotspot growth will be focused in four types of locations: wide-area outdoor hotzones (e.g., parks); transport hubs (e.g., airports); and social venues (e.g., bars and cafés), with local-area outdoor hotzones, (e.g., popular tourist attractions), expected to see the bulk of traffic.
- 70% of survey respondents plan to continue investing in both 4G LTE and NGH technologies.
The report also highlighted barriers to wider adoption and the use of public Wi-Fi hotspots including network authentication, the availability of a common roaming standard and 3G/Wi-Fi interworking. Standards were pointed out as essential for operators to realize the opportunities that Wi-Fi roaming presents. WBA said it is working to meet this challenge by defining Wi-Fi roaming interoperability standards. The association said that the industry must continue working closely together to ensure common standards offer a seamless, cellular-like Wi-Fi experience to end users and also to lay a solid foundation on which operators can compete.
NGH is currently in phase two of an international trial project involving approximately 50 major industry players including AT&T, Boingo, BSkyB, BT, China Mobile, Cisco, Ericsson, KT Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, Orange and Time Warner Cable.