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Look How Ubiquitous Wi-Fi Has Become

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netbookwifiusage.pngWi-Fi has become an indispensable part of our daily lives — at least for those of us who live in the United States, Decipher reported in a survey conducted on behalf of Devicescape, a San Bruno, Calif., networking software maker, San Jose, Calif.-based chipmaker Intel, and Meraki, a networking hardware maker in San Francisco.

Devicescape is a popular application among iPhone and iPod Touch users because it eliminates the need to constantly log onto AT&T or other Wi-Fi networks using a password. As a result, the numbers in this survey might be slightly skewed, so take them with a grain of salt. And anyway, what can you expect from a survey that’s tied to three unabashed champions of Wi-Fi? But it is a good sign-post of the reality of Wi-Fi and its ubiquitous nature.

I can remember paying $350 for a Lucent Wi-Fi device many years ago, wondering when it would be possible to have a connected life without wires. Today, my entire apartment is wired with an Airport Extreme and a series of Airport Express devices for a seamless experience. Most of my other gadgets are wireless and, as I have shared previously, on-the-go Wi-Fi is part of my daily life. Looks like that dream is now a reality.

CellphoneWiFiusage.pngAs shown through my earlier posts about Wi-Fi’s smartphonedriven renaissance, we are now assuming the wireless technology is part of our daily work flow. Nearly 98 percent of Wi-Fi consumers log onto Wi-Fi networks once daily, while nearly 57 percent log in every day, according to the Decipher’s survey of 8,000 users of the technology.

The availability of Wi-Fi on mobile phones is driving use of WiFi networks across the country. For instance, the Google network in Mountain View, Calif., has seen a big spike in Wi-Fi use, with smartphones contributing nearly 25 percent of the total usage, according to a press release from Tropos Networks, a municipal Wi-Fi networking gear maker.

networksharing.pngAnd if that is not enough, nearly 90 percent of the survey respondents make hotel and travel decisions based on Wi-Fi availability, and nearly 96 percent expect it to be free. What’s more, many folks are musing about buying devices that have built-in Wi-Fi.

One of the more interesting findings of the survey was that a growing number of people are willing to share their wireless networks if there are appropriate systems in place. A good way to do so: Build a ratings system much like the one on eBay.

Does anyone else see the sweet irony in this? I mean, when municipal wireless debates were raging, phone companies couldn’t wait to get the Wi-Fi networks shut down. Today, the same technology is coming to the rescue of those  companies.

16 Responses to “Look How Ubiquitous Wi-Fi Has Become”

  1. Hey Om,

    Recently, I traveled for two weeks in London and Paris with only an iPod Touch for communications and connectivity. I blogged about the experience here:

    Touch Traveler: London, Paris and only an iPod Touch

    Given the device’s dependence upon Wi-Fi, it seems relevant to the discussion.

    Check it out if interested.


  2. Om, I don’t think that these survey results (at least the ones you quoted) have anything to do with how ubiquitous wi-fi is. For all we know, the people saying they connect daily can be using only @ home and the office.

    Saying this this is ubiquitous and it demonstrates the vision, if not the method, of muni wi-fi is being realized wouldn’t be accurate unless you were able to show heat maps of cities showing how easy it is to roam an entire city and never lose coverage….THAT’S the definition of ubiquitous.

  3. giving this some thought this morning i have come to the conclusion that there is a huge unserved market. that market is apartment buildings, condos, and home owning communities. i bet residents would be very happy to have included in monthly rent and or condo fees free very good quality fast WiFi internet. But who serves this market? the only places i know that include free WiFI are rock bottom priced bachelor apartments targeting student and the like; and the quality tends to be horrible since the connections are overloaded all the time.

  4. I would have loved to see one distinction – connecting within a controlled environment (your home, office) and an uncontrolled environment (cafe, hotel, airport, on the run). I’m sure all of us connect daily in a controlled environment because it works and is convenient. I’m not so sure about uncontrolled environments. Take San Francisco. Everywhere I go, there are Wi-Fi networks. Most are closed now. The ones that are open are either broken (some of the Starbuck’s – AT&T really lets the Wayport network deteriorate), have too many people connected or have frequent drop-offs. I find myself more and more switching off Wi-Fi and going to a slower 3G connection, since it is more hassle-free. Despite their posturing, I’m sure that is what AT&T and Verizon want – me paying them for 3G connectivity.

  5. keep in mind that for many people the ‘dream of wifi’ particularly when talking about muni-wifi is really a dream of ‘elimination of paid IP connections in favor of free ones’ that wifi prevalence today is not the free internet people were thinking of when talking about muni-WiFi and the like.

    • well put tom. devicescape’s sharing data shows that people are ready to take baby steps towards sharing and that is promising.

      i think it could help create community clouds of wifi. i think that is something we should have focused on to start with instead of going for MuniFi.

  6. Om, wi-fi may be becoming ubiquitous – but fascinating the range of costs – free at some airports and many hotels, to being packaged (and providing I would suggest a large percent of time) in $ 60 a month 3G data plans.

    also the fragmentation once you leave US is mind boggling

    I spent 10 days in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and thought T-Mobile hotspots would cover me in all 3 German speaking countries. Had to roam on Boingo in 3 places and pay 2 hotels in addition…

  7. Glad to see that well over half of Devicescape members would be willing to share their network (WiFi) with others. After the uproar following a refusal to share bandwidth here before, it’s refreshing to see some people considerate enough to share.