Wi-Fi hotspots to soar

Wi-Fi hotspot users worldwide are expected to grow to 30 million this year. The incorporation of Wi-Fi enabled chipsets into two mobile phones, the Nokia 9500 Wi-Fi communicator and the Motorola MPX, will make Wi-Fi connectivity available to more users.

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By  Alicia Buller Published  May 30, 2004

Wi-Fi hotspot users worldwide are expected to grow from 9.3 million in 2003 to 30 million in 2004. Though Wi-Fi is currently used mostly via laptop connections, the incorporation of Wi-Fi enabled chipsets into two mobile phones, the Nokia 9500 Wi-Fi communicator and the Motorola MPX, will make Wi-Fi connectivity available to more users. Iraq looks set to be targeted by Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity, also known as Wireless Networking). The country’s technology could be introduced on a mass-application basis to give the internet sector a jump start, speculates American media. Currently there are just 13 Wi-Fi hotspots in Saudi Arabia, five in the UAE, and four in Kuwait. “By 2003, when the Wi-Fi technology first began to gain ground, it had two inherent limitations. First and foremost, it was a technology with application limited to laptops. There were no mobile phones in the market that could access the internet through a Wi-Fi hotspot,” says Bashar Dahabra, founder and general Manager of Info2cell.com, a mobile service provider. “Now this has all changed. The two inherent benefits that come to mind are on the one hand the convergence between the laptop, a handheld and a phone, and on the other hand the relatively cheaper to install, maintain and use Wi-Fi network,” he adds. The Wi-Fi network works through a base station, known as a hotspot, which provides internet connectivity by creating an ‘internet cloud’ with a diameter of not more than 100 feet, providing internet access to devices with a Wi-Fi chip. The users pay the hotspot owner, who in turn pays the service provider. The user gets high-speed wireless connectivity at relatively low rates (since the cost of installation and maintenance is relatively low), and the hotspot owner earns for the service he provides. The revenue benefits for the service provider, in turn, are immense, with additional service outlets. “Wi-Fi could be of great benefit for organisations such as Dubai Internet City, which could provide high speed limited range Wi-Fi connectivity inside offices, as well as, in public places such as its food-courts and cafeterias,” says Dahabra. “Now’s the time for Middle East governments and service providers adopt Wi-Fi technologies, especially keeping in mind that countries like the UAE are emerging as global centres of commerce. The Middle East region cannot afford to be left behind in adopting emerging telecommunications technologies.”

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