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A new survey of 259 service providers and Wi-Fi vendors reveals that global pulbic Wi-Fi hotspot numbers are roadmapped to grow from 1.3 million in 2011, to 5.8 million by 2015. That's a 350 percent increase and doesn't even include community hotspots created by users sharing their own Wi-Fi access points. Those will add another 4.5 million to the tally.
The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), which published its report based on data compiled by analyst firm Informa, said that China Mobile alone plans to deploy a million hotspots, while Japan's KDDI is gearing up to grow its 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to 100,000 just within the next six months.
A driving force in this rapid Wi-Fi hotspot expansion is the growing number of smartphone connections. According to the WBA, it won't be long before the number of smartphone connections to Wi-Fi hotspots outnumber laptop connections, the latter of which now accounts for 48 percent. Smartphones currently account for 36 percent, and tablets take up 10 percent of all Wi-Fi hotspots.
"The findings show we are about to enter the golden age of public Wi-Fi with hotspot deployments set to soar. Fixed operators are extending broadband services beyond the home and office, and Wi-Fi is supporting busy mobile broadband networks," said Chris Bruce (PDF), Chair of the WBA and CEO, BT Openzone. "Next Generation Hotspot trials are making inroads in the remaining barriers and by cracking the code of a simple, secure user experience hotspot use will continue to soar."
The WBA expects mobile traffic to reach 16.84 million terabytes by 2014.