Wireless hotspot internet access gains momentum

According to IDC, Europe’s hotspot market increased by 327% over the last year, from 269 locations at the end of 2001 to 1,150 locations in 2002.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  February 9, 2003

The demand for ‘anytime, anywhere’ mobile connectivity is driving massive growth in Europe’s wireless hotspot market. Research from IDC indicates that Europe’s hotspot market increased by 327% over the last year, from 269 locations at the end of 2001 to around 1,150 locations in 2002.

“In 2003 new players will continue to enter the wireless LAN hotspot market. Not only specialised WLAN companies will start deploying public services, incumbent mobile operators and fixed operators are also expected to combine WLAN services into their existing mobile offering,” comments Evelien Wiggers, senior research analyst for IDC's European Telecommunications & Networking research.

During 2001, the growth of hotspots was limited. However, 2002 has witnessed changes to the local regulatory environment making hotspots viable across Europe.

In 2002 the number of hotspots operators also grew rapidly. Most of these operators were greenfield players focusing on their own region — very few operators offered their services internationally and roaming possibilities were rare. The Western European hotspot market is becoming increasingly fragmented and is very unclear and complex for an end user.

Although Telia Homerun operates 41% of all the hotspots in Europe, it was difficult to get access to its network when you were not in one of the Nordic countries. Also a Metronet subscriber had to subscribe to another network when they wanted to access their Internet outside Austria, even though Metronet rules the Austrian hotspot market.

In the Middle East, hotspot internet access has yet to take hold. However, Bahrain’s monopoly operator, Batelco, has been operating a pilot project inside the country’s airport since the end of last year. Assuming the project is successful, Batelco plans to rollout a number of hotspots to cover the island.

The UAE's operator, Etisalat has also begun running controlled hotspot pilots in the UAE and hopes to have commercial service available before the end of the year.

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