Smartphones have overtaken notebooks for the first time as users' favored device for accessing wi-fi hotspots, according to a report out this week, which also highlights that wi-fi users can expect to see more hot spots in parks, tourist attractions and transport hubs in coming years.
People surf the internet on a laptop using the wi-fi connection of a cafe in Shanghai on January 14, 2010. Recently, smartphones have overtaken laptops as wi-fi users' preferred devices to access hotspot. ©AFP PHOTO / Philippe LOPEZ
The latest report by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WRA), published this week, shows that for the first time in the organization's history more people are using smartphones (40% of all users worldwide) than laptops (39%) to access the internet via wi-fi hotspots. Where smartphones go, tablets follow and the devices have also carved out a 17 percent share over the third quarter of 2012.
The WBA also noted that changes to the authentication process on many hotspots that do away with having to enter usernames and passwords have also helped to facilitate this change -- as entering screen after screen of security field information can be a major drawback on small, mobile devices such as smartphones. The technology that makes this possible is known as NGH and 19 percent of hotspot operators have pledged to roll it out in 2013 in order to meet the growing demand from smartphone and tablet users for secure networks on the move.
Diversified hotspot locations - and more of them
The survey also has good news for those of us who can't bear the thought of being without high-speed internet access at any time of the day. Hotspot providers have indicated that they are going to focus on developing wi-fi points in public parks, at transport hubs such as subway stations and airports and at social venues and major tourist attractions.
"These findings show that public Wi-Fi is now a crucial part of the mobile experience and this is set to grow enormously with the impending NGH deployments. Large operators are already seeing a significant increase in Wi-Fi usage. China Mobile, for example, saw a 102.5% year-on-year increase in Wi-Fi traffic in H1 2012 and Japan's NTT DoCoMo plans to grow its 14,200 hotspots by as much as 1.5 times before the end of the year. In order to sustain this momentum, it is essential that operators continue to work together and employ open standards thereby creating a truly global Wi-Fi network," said JR Wilson, Chairman of the WBA.
Open standards key
Of the findings, Lambert, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media said that developing and maintaining open standards will be crucial to giving consumers the service they need: "The industry must continue working closely together to ensure that common standards offer a seamless, cellular-like Wi-Fi experience to end users wherever they are, and also to lay a solid foundation on which operators can compete."
The survey drew on 386 respondents from the wi-fi industry, over half of which were operators with a geographical spread that incorporated all major continents.