Hotspot Profits On Hold: Gartner
Although there will be 4.2 million "frequent" users of 802.11 technology in North America this year, it will be three or four years before public access hotspot owners can hope to attain profitability, according to analysts at Gartner Inc. (see Gartner Predicts WLAN Use).
Ken Dulaney, vice president and research director at the research house, says there will be 31 million folk regularly connecting to 802.11 access points by 2007, and that there may be as many as 100,000 public hotspots by that time (way more than the number predicted by Analysys -- see Hotspots: Getting Hotter? ). Those are the sorts of numbers needed for the hotspot operators, such as Cometa Networks Inc. and T-Mobile USA, to make money from their services, Dulaney believes.
The analysts have also predicted a timeline for the emergence of 802.11a (54-Mbit/s over 5GHz) and 802.11g (54-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz). While 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) offers satisfactory performance for enterprise and hotspot deployment at present, Gartner believes that a and g products will start to replace b purchases early next year, once the technologies are more mature and applications requiring greater bandwidth, such as streaming video and voice over IP, gain traction.
802.11a, in particular, will offer some particular advantages as it uses the 5GHz band, while the 2.4GHz flavors can suffer from interference, especially from Bluetooth and consumer devices, such as such as remote-control toys, baby monitors, and wireless alarms. — Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung