Carrier WiFi

Gartner's Scant Hotspots Rant

The analyst backlash against public wireless LAN efforts is continuing apace with Gartner Inc.’s latest assessment that the location and number of current hotspots in operation is strangling the industry’s potential growth (see Gartner: Look Beyond Hotspots).

Despite the number of public wireless LAN hotspots rising from just over 1,200 in 2001 to more than 71,000 in 2003, the research house believes there are still not enough hotspots in prime locations to push the technology out of its niche status.

“There aren’t enough hotspots out there to generate significant demand,” says the company’s VP of telecommunications, Ian Keene. “Many more hotspot locations are needed if user numbers are to rise greatly.”

Keene argues that retail outlets such as coffee shops, gas stations, and restaurants are the prime locations for hotspot development, contrary to recent carrier moves (see France Tele Hits Hotel Hotspots ). “The vast majority of potential users don’t want to go off to the British Airways airport lounge or the nearest Hilton hotel to access their email." [Ed. note: And who wants to do business in the vicinity of the weirdos that actually enjoy hanging out in airports and hotel lobbies?]

He says that although the early wireless LAN market has been driven by service providers deciding where to set up hotspots, retail outlet owners are now ready to take the wheel, installing hotspots because they want to lure customners with the promise of wireless Internet access -- as well as weak tea and stale scones.

As a result, Gartner expects a boom in the number of hotspots in shops, restaurants, and other fine establishments, with this category accounting for more than 70 percent of all hotspots by the end of the year:

Gartner’s comments today echo previous concerns that the wireless LAN industry is suffering from a rash of ill-advised business models [ed. note: nasty, they should probably get some ointment on that] (see Is the Hotspot Honeymoon Over?).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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