A sluggish global economy hasn’t prevented the European hotspot market from exploding.
According to a new report from research firm IDC, the number of hotspots climbed 327 percent last year, from 269 locations at the end of 2001 to 1,150 at the end of 2002.
The growth is in part due to a change in regulatory issues, IDC said. Operators were initially slow to roll out hotspots in Western Europe, where there where strict regulatory restrictions. When regulations were changed in 2002, a whole new range of hotspots were announced.
“In 2003 new players will continue to enter the wireless LAN hotspot market,” said Evelien Wiggers, senior research analyst for IDC’s European Telecommunications and Networking research. “Not only specialized WLAN companies will start deploying public services, incumbent mobile operators and fixed operators are also expected to combine WLAN services into their existing mobile offering.”
The number of hotspot operators also grew dramatically in 2002, but the market is becoming increasingly fragmented, IDC said. Most operators focused on service only in their own region, with few offering options for international roaming.
For example, Telia Homerun operates 41 percent of all the hotspots in Europe, but IDC said it was difficult to access its network outside of the Nordic countries. And while Metronet controls the Austrian hotspot market, their customers must subscribe to another network in order to access the Internet outside Austria.