Wireless hotspot users are not getting value for money for service access as they are wasting minutes unnecessarily, according to Trustive, Europe's leading wireless hotspot access provider. This along with: businesses failing to have a policy on hotspot access; Wi-Fi access becoming an important factor in hotel selection; Voice over IP (VoIP) will be the 'killer application' for Wi-Fi hotspots within 12 months; hotspot usage is on the increase; and Asia Pac operators falling behind on adopting WISPr, are some of the key findings from the second, annual Trustive WLAN Roaming Research 2007* launched today at the Wireless Event, Olympia.
Bram Jan Streefland, managing director and co-founder of Trustive, says: "The survey shows that many end users are paying excessively on a per minute basis. Around 60 per cent are opting for ad hoc methods of purchasing wireless services such as scratch cards or vouchers, which are often sold in hour-long blocks. With just over half of end users averaging a session times of 30 minutes or less, it means that about half of the time purchased is wasted and users are unnecessarily losing unused minutes. No wonder that 70 per cent of respondents believe pricing to be expensive and not offering value for money. It is also why Trustive's 'per second billing' and innovative pooled subscriptions are proving such a success"
Currently, 45 per cent of operator revenues come from voucher and credit card payments compared to 32 per cent from subscriptions, a figure which has risen from 28 per cent in 2006.
Streefland says: "We anticipate that subscription levels will continue to grow over the next 12-18 months. For end users the three most important things when purchasing subscription schemes are coverage, price and easy connectivity. Certainly the first and third are improving dramatically as the number of hotspots, aggregators and roaming agreements grow and client software becomes available like our HotSpotter with its easy one-click access. It is interesting to note that for pre-paid services, end users are saying that price, validity period and minimum spend are more important than quality of service. This may mean that there is little impetus for operators to provide quality service to those customers, which is a concern. It is also interesting that 65 per cent of users would ideally like a free service, but they also want to connect easily via a fast well secured connection. Beggars can't be choosers!"
Off the business radar
The majority - 85 per cent - of respondents control the purse strings themselves when it comes to hotspot use, rather than their place of employment. This is despite the fact that 60 per cent use wireless hotspots to access their work's intranet or the corporate network.
"It is not surprising that we are seeing costs for Wi-Fi getting out of control for some companies. They have employees out on the road or at airports buying expensive ad hoc services and then coming back with a fistful of receipts. It makes cost control and transparency virtually impossible. Organisations also get people using company laptops at hotspots and operating outside of the business IT policy. This obviously has implications," continues Streefland.
Keeping up-to-date when on the move and increasing productivity are seen as the two biggest benefits of hotspot access at 30 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
Roaming all over the world
The report suggests that end-users want hotspot connectivity wherever they are. The results show 33 per cent use hotspots all over the world, 37 per cent nationally, and 30 per cent close to home. The three most popular places to use Wi-Fi hotspots are bars or cafes (31 per cent), hotels (27 per cent) and airports (22 per cent). In fact, 45 per cent of end users say they select their hotel based on whether Wi-Fi is available. The report also marks the advent of metro-wide hotspots, highlighting 5 per cent of all hotspots now being of this type.
VoIP - to be or not to be the killer app?
Voice over IP (VoIP) will be the 'killer application' for Wi-Fi hotspots within 12 months according to operators. However, end-user research reveals that there is still some way to go before this becomes a reality, as email and internet usage still dominate. Of those who responded, 62 and 56 per cent respectively always use hotspots for email and internet access, compared to only 23 per cent who say the same for cheap calls.
A maturing market
The results of the operator research suggest a maturing market. In line with recent research from ABI Research, the report shows that the number of hotspots is predicted to grow by a further 25 per cent in the next year. In addition, usage per hotspot is increasing. Latest figures show that 48 per cent of hotspots now operate over 50 sessions per day, compared to only 36 per cent in 2006.
Changes to the numbers of roaming agreements also suggest a maturing market - 66 per cent of service providers have roaming agreements with international operators, up from 42 per cent in 2006, and 51 per cent have the same on a local scale, an increase of 11 per cent on last year. Additionally, 82 per cent of operators have at least one roaming agreement with a hotspot access provider or aggregator. Trustive, iPass and Boingo continue to be the leading access providers with 60 per cent, 55 per cent and 51 per cent of operators naming these aggregators as those with which they have a roaming agreement. Comparing Trustive's 2006 report to this year's, also suggests consolidation in the aggregator market with the number of aggregators mentioned by name falling by a third from nine to six.
Additionally, average connection speeds are increasing - 61 per cent of hotspots now have a connection speed of 2Mbp/s or greater, up from 39 per cent a year ago. While ADSL is currently the most popular form of backhaul at 57 per cent, WiMax comes in third place with 9 per cent after cable at 17 per cent.
Streefland explains, "This increase in connection speeds shows that the market is becoming more serious and operators are looking to provide applications such as VoIP over Wi-Fi in addition to just access. We also expect WiMax to become more widespread in future years as the technology and standards become more widely adopted."
Whisper about WISPr
According to the operator research, on average 58 per cent already have a network that is fully compliant with the WISPr (Wireless Internet Service Provider roaming) specification that aims to facilitate simple, one-click access to wireless hotspots. Of those whose network is not compliant, 60 per cent plan to do so within 12 months. However, this figure masks some substantial discrepancies. In Europe a far higher number are committed to WISPr, with 67 per cent being fully compliant compared to only 42 per cent in the US and 44 per cent in Asia.
"We are delighted the research shows that WISPr has been fully adopted by so many operators in Europe. The specification is all about removing the burden of connecting from the end user and providing them with the customer experience they want - fast and easy connectivity. In fact, our HotSpotter software shows the benefits of being compliant with WISPr. Our end users can connect to any of our hotspots with a mere click of a button! On the operator side, it will make it easier for operators to establish roaming agreements with one another. Both of these factors will help increase usage, so it is in everyone's interest for operators to become compliant. It is a shame that in regions such as the US and Far East, at present, many operators don't really know enough about WISPr or understand the benefits," concludes Streefland.