Worldwide public Wi-Fi hotspot deployments have reached a total of 5.69 million in 2014, and will grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 11.2% between 2015 and 2020, according to ABI Research (

This includes public Wi-Fi hotspots deployed by mobile and fixed-line carriers as well as third-party Wi-Fi service providers. ABI Research expects the number of worldwide carrier Wi-Fi hotspots will reach 13.3 million in 2020.

“Wi-Fi hotspot deployments have been surprisingly robust; more and more public locations have signed up on a free or ‘freemium’ basis. This has discouraged the participation of third-party operators in some locales because there is a need for the upgrade of service, coverage and legacy equipment, which is only beneficial for operators with significant economies of scale,” comments Lian Jye Su, research associate at ABI Research,

For example, Tomizone in the United States has now shifted its business strategy away from the residential broadband Wi-Fi market to an enterprise-focus Wi-Fi solution service for transportation, retail, and accommodation. The high cost of sales with low return-on-investment on residential Wi-Fi has also caused mobile operators to rethink their Wi-Fi public hotspot deployment strategies. Several operators, such as China Telecom and British Telecom, have either slowed down their deployments or chosen to enter partnerships with third-party operators such as Fon.

Brazilian operator Oi has doubled its Wi-Fi hotspots to nearly 1 million. ETECSA (Cuba), Togo Telecom, and Singtel (Singapore) are some of the carriers that launched public Wi-Fi access in 2014. With the introduction of a Wi-Fi and wireless data combo service package, customers can expect an automatic switch from mobile data transmission to Wi-Fi.

“The operators tend to see Wi-Fi hotspots as a method of offloading mobile data traffic, especially in crowded areas,” adds Jake Saunders, vice president and practice director of Core Forecasting, ABI Research. “Customers do value the experience of high bandwidth connections while on the go, which leads to better customer satisfaction.”