Europe to take Wi-Fi crown from US

As Wi-Fi hot boom over the next few years, Europe is set to overtake the US, say analysts

America will be jostled off the top of the Wi-Fi heap within four years, researchers have predicted, as businesses and users in Western Europe and Asia rush to embrace high-speed wireless networking.

Analysts at The Radicati Group have forecast that the number of Wi-Fi hot spots worldwide is set to increase by over 600 percent to around 477,000 in 2007, from some 71,500 today. A significant chunk of these new hot spots will be created in Europe. Currently, North America is home to 46 percent of these Wi-Fi networks, compared to 34 percent for Western Europe, 19 percent for Asia/Pacific and just 1 percent for everywhere else.

By 2007, Western Europe will have clawed its way to 38 percent of the global market, ahead of North America with 34 percent and Asia/Pacific with 24 percent, leaving 4 percent for the rest of the world.

Many of today's hot spots are located at sites such as hotels, airports and cafes, as operators try to target businesspeople. As the overall Wi-Fi market grows, hot spots will pop up in a wider range of places. "New markets and vertical industries are constantly emerging as well, with trains, airplanes, hospitals, retail, manufacturing, public libraries, government buildings and even police and fire department vehicles becoming available with Wi-Fi access points," predicts The Radicati Group, in the latest edition of The Messaging Technology Report.

Other analysts, though, are more downbeat about Wi-Fi's chances, with PA Consulting reportedly believing that the public access wireless LAN market is years away from profitability.

The Radicati report also identifies the most common reasons for using a Wi-Fi hot spot. Checking email is the number one reason for 27 percent of those interviewed, followed by surfing the Web (21 percent), preparing documents or presentations (19 percent) and scheduling (15 percent).