More smartphones connect to Wi-Fi hotspots than laptops, says the Wireless Broadband Alliance

November 06, 2012 // By Julien Happich
The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has published a report on the Wi-Fi hotspot market compiled by global research company Informa Telecoms & Media, revealing that smartphone-based hotspot connections now outnumber those from laptops for the first time.

This trend is set to accelerate as the industry moves toward the deployment of Next Generation Hotspots (NGH), based on open industry standards, which will make it even easier for the rapidly increasing number of smartphone owners to use the technology.

The survey revealed that hotspot connections are now led by smartphones (40%), followed closely by laptops (39%) and then tablets (17%) which have seen rapid growth since their recent emergence. The survey also highlighted rapid deployment of NGH, which is based on Passpoint certified equipment, with 19% of operator respondents planning to deploy by the end of 2013. NGH dramatically simplifies public Wi-Fi access, especially from smartphones, by allowing secure connections without the need for usernames and passwords, and is seen as a vital tool for offloading busy mobile broadband networks.

The telecoms industry is showing an increasingly positive attitude towards public Wi-Fi with 43% of all respondents describing themselves as 'more bullish' over the past year regarding future investment in the technology. The survey also highlights the major potential of Wi-Fi roaming with 75% of operator respondents claiming under 10% of their overall user base connects to hotspots while travelling. NGH is a critical means of increasing international usage by allowing users to automatically connect to hotspots where their operator has a roaming agreement.

The survey also found that future public Wi-Fi hotspot growth will be focused in four types of location: wide-area outdoor hotzones (e.g. parks); transport hubs (e.g. airports); and social venues (e.g. bars and cafes), with local-area outdoor hotzones (e.g. popular tourist attractions) expected to see the bulk of traffic. These deployments will be in parallel with 4G LTE deployments with over 70% of survey respondents planning to continue investing in both technologies.

The report does highlight several barriers to wider adoption and use of public Wi-Fi hotspots including network authentication, availability of a common roaming standard and 3G/Wi-Fi interworking. However, several of these challenges