Wi-Fi Hotspot Usage: The Numbers are Up…Way Up


Do you ever use Wi-Fi hotspots to get work done? If you do, you’re hardly alone. In fact, a study from iPass that has just been released shows that business users are driving the rapid acceleration of Wi-Fi hotspot usage. According to the study, business-focused hotspot usage jumped 68 percent between the first half of 2007 and the second half of 2006, versus 44 percent in the six months previous, and airports headed the list of places business users wirelessly connect.

The Hotspot Index from iPass is based on data from over 2 million sessions collected at over 3,500 businesses, and the numbers are global in scope. In this post, I’ll summarize some of the key findings of the study, some of which illustrate surprising trends in usage that web workers should be aware of.

While usage of Wi-Fi hotspots is growing rapidly in the United States, as is usually the case with all things wireless, the rate of European hotspot usage growth is outpacing U.S. growth. The iPass data shows that 1,083,086 hotspot sessions were logged in the United States in the first half of 2007. That’s up from 692,332 U.S.-based sessions in the second half of 2006, representing 57 percent growth. That total number of sessions in the U.S. tallied up to more sessions than were logged in any other country, but Europe expanded its share of worldwide hotspot use to 36 percent, up from 31 percent for the second half of 2006, leading the way in share growth.

Guess which city leads the way in total number of Wi-Fi sessions logged? The answer is London, and for the first half of 2007 there were nearly four times as many hotspot sessions logged in London than in the second-place city, which is New York. London saw just over 25,000 sessions logged in the first half of this year—more than double the number of sessions logged in the second half of 2006, and representing 251 percent annual growth as measured from the first half of 2006.

Whenever anybody mentions public Wi-Fi hotspots, Starbucks or the general trend toward café’s providing Wi-Fi comes up, but café usage of Wi-Fi is actually third on the list of top venues used. Airports are the number one spot where people use public Wi-Fi, and hotels are second. Four U.S. airports top the list of the five highest number of hotspot sessions logged in the first half of the year, and the tallies are here:

Chicago and Dallas? Sure, they’re major hubs, but I would have guessed that New York and San Francisco would top that list. Another interesting data point from the iPass study is that Latin America showed very strong 125 percent growth over 2006 in terms of number of sessions, although the Asia Pacific region saw nearly seven times as many sessions logged, compared to Latin American sessions.

Without a doubt, the report illustrates that rapidly increasing numbers of people—especially business users—are adopting public Wi-Fi hotspots as places to work. Some big events on the Wi-Fi front are looming and may contribute to more huge growth for hotspots, especially the upcoming ratification of the new 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, which will vastly increase Wi-Fi speeds and range. And, 802.11n even promises to introduce brand new wireless applications.

For more on Wi-Fi hotspot usage, including instructions on how to stay secure during hotspot sessions, and how to sniff for hotspots no matter where you are, see this blog’s Ultimate Guide to Wi-Fi, where you’ll also find many power user tips.

Do you have any tips on hotspot usage or trends?



Now that wi-max is starting to proliferate, it’ll be interesting to see what the impact will be on hotspot growth. Mind you, wi-max is more of an outdoor technology while wi-fi is predominantly an indoor technology. That being said, the two should compliment each other versus compete directly or so the theory goes.



Very interesting. Seeing that WiFi was picking up in interest (meaning it caught my attention :-), I did a quick test of videoconferencing from various WiFi hot spot locations. It worked great! Where in the past, one needed to find a “room” to videoconference from, now all you need is a laptop, a web cam, an H.323 VC app or Internet based VC app, and a WiFi connection. The world has changed very dramatically, for videoconferencing, since the days when I started way back in 1988…


ORD and DFW make sense, given the large number of people in transit who very often get stuck due to weather or airline problems. However, O’Hare’s WIFI is not free, so it’s interesting that it still had the highest usage.

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