Show Me The Money -- If You Can
By Carlo Longino, Tue Dec 16 18:30:00 GMT 2003

An analyst study says the number of hotspots is booming, but the number of users -- and the amount of money they're spending -- isn't keeping pace.

In-Stat/MDR says there are about 40,000 hotspots worldwide, an incredible number compared to the few hundred available in 2000, and they expect that number to increase to 180,000 in the next few years. But what's worrisome is that the report says use of "visitor-based networks" which are wired or wireless nets like hotel broadband connections or public hotspots is pretty low among business users.

A majority of the business users they surveyed said they use those networks less than six times per year, and their average spending on access to them is a paltry $12.70 a month.

I've been believing for some time now that the only money to made in Wi-Fi is in the equipment. From personal experience, paid Wi-Fi doesn't seem too popular, but free Wi-Fi goes down almost as well as free beer. Perhaps wireless carriers can make a go of the hotspot business by combining access with their mobile networks in some way, but for individual businesses, it looks like they're better off using free Wi-Fi as a differentiator and to attract customers, making money from increased volume rather than from selling access.