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GCC to have 1000 hotspots by 2006

The evolving Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) WLAN technology that allows high-speed wireless internet through access points called hotspots at public places is gathering momentum in the Gulf region in general and Dubai in particular.

The evolving Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) WLAN technology that allows high-speed wireless internet through access points called hotspots at public places is gathering momentum in the Gulf region.

The GCC is projected to have over 1,000 hot spots by the end of 2006, with a total number of 250,000 users, in other words an average of 250 users per hotspot.

In the same period, Dubai’s current figure of 35 hot spots is expected to jump to 140, with a total number of 35,000 users, driven by demand from businessmen and foreign visitors travelling to Dubai, according to a recent study conducted by Dubai-based Madar Research Group.

“The hot spots represents an important stage in the development of wireless connectivity with no physical barriers at the local level and unhindered high-speed internet access to mobile professionals,” says Bashar Dahabra, general Manager, Info2cell.com, a regional wireless internet service provider (WISP). “Wi-Fi has eliminated the connectivity problems that plagued users of mobile devices as they moved from one country to another.”

The Madar study shows that in Dubai most of the hot spots are found in five-star hotels, while the rest are found in coffee shops and exhibition centres such as the Dubai World Trade Centre, which hosted the recent WiFi enabled Gitex 2004. Emirates Airline too offers hotspots on its Airbus 345 flights between Dubai and New York, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Christchurch.

Globally, according to Gartner Dataquest research, there will be an estimated 30 million users accessing 132,486 hot spots around the end of 2004, registering a triple growth rate over 2003.

Of these hotspots, 62% are found in retail outlets, 17% in hotels and 15.5% in community centres and the rest in airports, gas stations and ports. London has the highest number of hot spots (844), followed by New York (741) and Paris (663).

Wi-Fi is a suite of specifications for high-speed WLAN approved by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1999. In technical circles, it is referred to as 802.11x, with variants such as a,b,g offering different levels of speed. The evolving WLAN technology is based on the 802.11 wireless Ethernet specifications.

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