iPass: Europe Leads in Business Wi-Fi Use

Wi-Fi use in Europe is having a record year among business users, according
to figures released this week by broadband management provider iPass. So much so, the continent has passed North America in the first half of this year for the first time in the iPass Mobile Broadband Index (MBI).

Europe grew its use of Wi-Fi 89 percent year over year and now accounts for an impressive 47 percent of global use. That global share is a 36 percent increase from the first half of 2007. The MBI summarizes internal data collected by iPass and reflects usage behavior across its base of 3,500 enterprise customers, which includes 400 of the Forbes Global 2000 companies.

“These are mostly enterprise, global 2000 organizations,” Piero DePaoli, senior director for global product marketing at iPass, told InternetNews.com. DePaoli concedes the iPass numbers account for only a slice of Wi-Fi hotspots overall, but are indicative of trends.

“One reason Europe is growing is that the flat rate pricing for Wi-Fi is
very attractive as you travel from country to country,” he said. “Cellular
broadband cards are great, but the per megabyte fee is much more expensive.”

The specific iPass findings show London remains the top city for business
users of Wi-Fi, although its growth is slowing significantly, from 251
percent during the first half of 2007, to 27 percent growth during the first
half of this year.

Another interesting data nugget: worldwide, commuter transit locations, such as train stations and ferries, showed very strong Wi-Fi growth of 79 percent year over year. London city train stations had the most number of Wi-Fi sessions, followed by the Japan Rail train network. iPass said the third place finisher was a surprise, the Seattle-area Washington State Ferry system, coming in ahead of the popular Heathrow Express airport trains that connect London with the airport.

New wireless technologies, like WiMax offer a much broader range than Wi-Fi and stand to have a much bigger impact as more devices incorporate the technology. “WiMax is off to a slow start, but some of the work by Sprint and Clearwire is going to make a
difference,” said DePaoli. “You’ll start to see mobile users looking for a
downtown area to get connected, rather than a specific location.
WiMax can fill a lot of the gaps in coverage.”

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