Hotspot Usage Shifting Toward Handhelds

With the increasing prevalence of Wi-Fi-enabled handsets, hotspot usage by handheld devices has increased significantly. As a percentage of total connects, handhelds increased from 20 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2009, according to In-Stat. The research firm reported that by 2011 handhelds are anticipated to account for half of hotspot connects.

Other factors are affecting handheld hotspot usage growth as well, In-Stat noted. There is a predominance of mobile carriers in the hotspot market, resulting in promotion of Wi-Fi-enabled handset devices on their networks. New dual-mode Wi-Fi phones are coming to the market. Growth in applications, such as content download, or even more so voice over Wi-Fi, will drive usage of handheld devices over the coming years. Finally, markets such as China are opening for hotspots that have previously restricted Wi-Fi usage on handhelds.

The ubiquity of Wi-Fi has created hotspot coverage as an expected amenity at many places of business. While consumer or leisure users do not often carry a laptop, they do have Wi-Fi-enabled handhelds and are using these devices to access hotspots. This, coupled with the service being bundled with mobile plans, is making hotspot access much more consumer-oriented compared to the service’s former business focus.

In-Stat estimated hotspot usage will increase in 2009 by 47 percent, bringing total worldwide connects to 1.2 billion.

Meanwhile, Wi-Fi handset shipments have increased significantly over the past several years. From 2007 to 2008, shipments increased by more than 50 percent, In-Stat stated, noting this growth is a result from increased phone functionality, falling price points and carrier promotion. In addition, shipments of Wi-Fi-enabled entertainment devices, such as cameras, gaming devices and personal media players (PMPs) will increase from 108.8 million in 2009 to 177.3 million in 2013.

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