The study, published Monday by research firm In-Stat/MDR, counted 40,000 wireless hotspots around the world in 2003, showing a rate of growth that surpassed analysts' expectations. This compares to just a few hundred in 2000. Researchers predict there will be around 180,000 hotspots worldwide enabled with Wi-Fi, the popular protocol for delivering high-speed wireless Internet service, by 2007.
Jupiter Research published a report finding that 70% of online consumers are aware that Wi-Fi is available in public places, but just 15% have used it at all, with only 6% having done so in a public space. Furthermore, only 1% have paid for the service directly, with an additional 3% having paid indirectly (for instance, as part of their hotel bill).
Press reports of Starbucks usage in April said that of the 22 mil people who visit one of the coffee outlets in North America in an average week, just 25,000 were taking advantage of the service. Wireless phone service provider T-Mobile has deployed Wi-Fi in more than 2,600 Starbucks locations in North America, as well as in other chain stores, including Borders and Kinko's. Currently, its network consists of 3,900 North American hotspots; that number is poised to grow Tuesday, when T-Mobile plans to announce another Wi-Fi partner.