The UK is leading the global wi-fi boom, with its existing estate of more than 18 million hotspots set to increase to 21 million by 2015, according to industry experts, Informa Telecoms & Media.
The findings come as the UK wi-fi industry celebrates its tenth anniversary and BT, which was among the first providers to supply wi-fi in Britain, today announcing that its BT Fon and BT Openzone wi-fi services will be rebranded to BT Wi-fi in a move to make it easier for users to find a hotspot and get online.
BT is one of the largest of the world’s wi-fi providers. Its business and consumer broadband customers have free access to one of the world’s biggest wi-fi networks of more than six million hotspots in more than 100 countries. An incredible 21,000 people log on to BT Wi-fi every minute during peak times and more than one billion wi-fi minutes were used over the last three months on BT Wi-fi.
As wireless hotspots grow consumer behaviour is changing, with email accounting for 26 per cent out of home activity, social networking 20 per cent and web browsing 19 per cent. Travel locations are the most popular for accessing the internet with 79 per cent tending to use wi-fi, closely followed by eating and drinking at 71 per cent and 52 per cent when shopping.
The appeal of wi-fi is not limited to the young early technology adopters, 41 per cent of 35-54 year-olds, 31 per cent of over 55s and 29 per cent of 18-34 year-olds say that they understand the benefits of wi-fi.
Wi-fi is also boosting the fortunes of businesses, with 17 per cent of people saying that they would chose a place with wi-fi over one without. Wi-fi also greatly influences people’s propensity for return visits with 21 per cent of people saying that they would visit a place again if it had wi-fi. Wi-fi also boosts businesses opportunities for referrals with 13 per cent[v] of people saying they would recommend somewhere with wi-fi to a friend.
BT Wi-fi CEO, Andy Baker, said: “As tablets and smartphones have become increasingly popular, connecting to the internet through wi-fi has become more relevant. We are proud to offer our customers free access to one of the biggest wi-fi networks in the world and wanted to make it easier for our customers to find a hotspot and get online, it made sense for us to bring our estate under one unified brand.”
Informa Telecoms & Media, Principal Analyst, Thomas Wehmeier, said: “When BT pioneered the introduction of wi-fi in the UK 10 years ago nobody could have imagined just how central to everyday life the technology would eventually become. For today’s connected consumer, wi-fi is an essential way to connect and communicate via an increasing number of smart devices, from the smartphone to the tablet and, in the future, to virtually any consumer electronic device.”