The growth of Wi-Fi in Europe is growing more rapidly than in North America, although there are some unsolved technical issues, according to two separate studies released this week.
Frost & Sullivan
, in its report, says the European WLAN public access hotspots market is starting to look like a hype bubble. Despite widespread failure to address the technical and business challenges that need to be overcome before the market can truly flourish, many players are viewing WLAN hotspots as an exciting business opportunity, with wide-ranging business models being debated.
Insight Research‘s analysis of the WiFi industry, WiFi in North America and Europe: Telecommunications’ Future 2003-2008, suggests that wireless LAN technology—increasingly popping up in public spaces such as airports and cafes, in private residences, and in businesses—will grow faster in Europe than North America. Worldwide WiFi revenues are expected to grow from $7 billion in 2003 to over $44 billion by 2008, at a compounded annual rate of 44 percent.
At present, the market is highly fragmented with many different players each staking their claim to be a major force in the market, says the Frost & Sullivan report. It is clear that not all of these market participants can survive in the long run, but many players feel that even a short-term gain renders market entry attractive. Frost & Sullivan believes that the consolidation has already begun and that the number of service providers in this market will decline as they are absorbed by larger organisations with more resources.
It is clear that a limited investment can yield significant revenue generation opportunities in the European WLAN hotspots market, according to Frost & Sullivan. However, this can only be achieved by selecting the most appropriate business models. The limited success of commercial services in North America has already demonstrated that the right mix of customer segmentation, location, pricing and service offering needs to be found.
The enterprise market, with its high penetration of notebook PCs and growing demand for flexible access to network services, is of pivotal importance to the WLAN industry. However, WLAN is also growing in popularity in vertical markets such as transportation, distribution, medical, public access networks and home environments.
Frost & Sullivan expects total subscription revenues in the European WLAN hotspots market to rise from around EUR 18 million in 2002 to in excess of EUR 1 billion by the end of 2006.