Hotspots: Getting Hotter?
The consulting firm’s latest report, "Public WLAN Access in Western Europe and the USA," estimates the WLAN market to be worth a honking $5.5 billion by 2007, up from a piddly $33.4 million in 2002. It states that developments in Western Europe will soar like an eagle in this timeframe, with the region accounting for almost half of this overall revenue, compared to only a third today. The number of total hotspots in the two areas is also estimated to grow from 4,800 in 2002 to 57,000 by 2007.
However, the consulting firm’s managing director, Ross Pow [Ed.note: Wow!], admits that the company was forced to downgrade its initial expectations for market forecasts in 2007. “This is still an exciting market with loads of potential, but certain milestones are going to take an extra twelve to eighteen months to achieve,” he tells Unstrung.
So what’s holding things back then? Pow cites a lower level of investment due to carriers’ cautiousness over investing in an uncertain market where technological and regulatory issues are still to be resolved (see Gartner Warns on 802.11g and Public Access BlackSpots?), coupled with the fact that business models are still in the early stages of development.
Pow expects the 802.11 market to mature in different ways in different regions. In Europe, service providers will dominate the scene (last week's Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) deal (see Swisscom Buys a Bevy of PWLAN) will be typical, he says). In the U.S., on the other hand, "aggregators" like Boingo Wireless Inc., iPass Inc., and Wayport Inc. will dominate -- at least for the short term.
He also says the real money will come from consumer usage of 802.11 -- not business travelers. “Our long-term vision for this market is actually a consumer proposition,” he says, giving his crystal ball a quick wipe. “W-LAN offers fast and ubiquitous access to applications. This technology will never be big if it is just limited to the business user. Medium- and long-term, this is a mass consumer market.”
(To take this month's poll on public wireless LAN services, visit: Who Put the P in PWLAN?).
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung