Gartner: Business travelers cool on Wi-Fi

Traveling business executives are not hooking up to wireless hotspots while in transit, a study has found.

Less than a quarter of business travelers in the United States and United Kingdom are using Wi-Fi at airports, airplanes and public hotspots, according to a recent Gartner survey.

Only 25 percent of U.S. and 17 percent of U.K. business travelers are using the wireless technology, the study revealed. This finding emerged despite the fact that wireless hotspots have been available for several years now, and laptop computers made in the last two years are equipped with wireless Internet capability.

According to Delia MacMillan, Gartner's research vice-president, most business travelers are abstaining from Wi-Fi due to educational and financial reasons, rather than technological apprehension.

"While Wi-Fi has come a long way, our survey shows that many business travelers remain uncertain on why they should use Wi-Fi, what equipment they need, how they can connect and how much they will be charged," she said.

Respondents were concerned about the cost of Wi-Fi services, according to the study. Those who had used the wireless technology were least happy with the price of such services, the report stated.

MacMillan noted that "many organizations will not reimburse their personnel for Wi-Fi access charges as these fees are often not covered by (the company's) telecom contracts".

"And if airlines can lower prices (of in-flight access), then the provision of Wi-Fi access could prove to be a key attraction to business travelers," she added. Some airlines such as Lufthansa and SAS in Europe, as well as All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan Airlines (JAL) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) in Asia, are offering Wi-Fi services to passengers, she said.

MacMillan noted that competing wireless technologies such as 3G, could also hamper Wi-Fi adoption among business travelers.

3G could become more effective than Wi-Fi for some users who require continual access to data, she explained, because a 3G service contract costs as much as a few hours of Wi-Fi access.

Hotspots are also preferred over 3G for travelers who need intermittent Web access. "Occasional travelers who don't need frequent access to data are finding hotspots more cost-effective than a contractual commitment to 3G services," MacMillan said. "They are also able to find hot spots in places where 3G coverage is unavailable or unreliable."