Worldwide carrier Wi-Fi deployments reached a total 4.9 million hotspots in 2012, according to ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com).
“Despite the successful adoption of 3G and 4G mobile data services, the number of Wi-Fi Hotspots has continued to proliferate and are anticipated to surpass 6.3 million by the end of 2013,” comments industry analyst, Khin Sandi Lynn. The number includes Wi-Fi hotspots deployed by fixed-line and mobile carriers as well as third-party operators (e.g., Boingo, iPass, etc).
Wi-Fi has very much become a complement to 3G and 4G services and is now a mainstay of connectivity for the majority of smartphone, tablet, and laptop users because it is often free in many public Wi-Fi locations. This is particularly the case when a mobile user is roaming – Wi-Fi networks can help the user save a significant amount on mobile data roaming charges.
As mobility is increasingly important for users, fixed broadband operators are also building Wi-Fi hotspots in order to provide fast and reliable Internet connections when the customers are away from home. Five cable companies from the United States (Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, Optimum, and Bright House) have agreed to allow their customers to access more than 100,000 Wi-Fi hotspots installed nationwide.
In addition to mobile and fixed carriers, third-party Wi-Fi network operators (such as iPass, Boingo and Tomizone) are also expanding their Wi-Fi hotspot coverage. Third-party operators install their own Wi-Fi hotspots as well as retail access to Wi-Fi hotspots managed by telecom operators. Of the total global Wi-Fi hotspots, 88% of Wi-Fi is in Asia-Pacific, followed by 8% in Europe, 3% in North America, and 1% in the other regions.