Huge revenues predicted for wireless LAN hot-spot businesses

by Guy Kewney | posted on 25 June 2002

Each time a market research company looks at the potential for growth in public Internet access over wireless, the figures look better; the latest research from Juniper Research predicts worldwide revenues of nearly $10 bn in another five years.

Guy Kewney

Juniper's Tony Crabtree says his report is the only in-depth report which looks not just at public hot-spots but also the last mile broadband market, and suggests that growth in both areas will be spectacular.

Here are his figures - see fig. 1

<1/> Juniper predictions in millions of dollars

Worldwide service revenues for Public Wireless LANs, specifically, will be worth $9.5bn in five years time, with ‘last mile' WLAN revenues reaching almost $5.5bn says Crabtree. Crabtree says “The ability of 802.11, and other WLAN technologies, to provide ‘last mile', and public hotspot access, has catapulted the technology to the forefront of both the broadband and mobile internet sectorsâ€.

It is the simplicity of Wireless LAN that makes the technology so attractive, says Crabtree. "With no licenses to win (or pay for), no nationwide infrastructure to build (or pay for), and no significant technology risks to gamble, and with the equipment [being] standards-based, very low cost (relatively) and simple to deploy, there is an attractive business case and some repositioning to be done with 3Gâ€.

Hotspot numbers are growing rapidly, with deployment announcements being made almost weekly e.g. BT-4000, Boingo-5000, and McDonalds Restaurants/Softbank-4000. Juniper Research believes that the pioneering US market will continue to expand, with West Europe, the Far East and China offering huge potential. The sector will increasingly attract the attentions of the more established mobile and fixed operators, with structural consolidation inevitable, and roaming capabilities introduced across markets.

But the last mile business will be more of a surprise. "As in the early pioneering days of the internet, small Wireless Internet Service Providers, or WISPs, now number in their thousands, offering ‘free' community connections, or full commercial services to businesses and residential customers."

Despite potential market inhibitors like radio interference and line of sight limitations, Juniper Research believes that the sector has a vast growth potential, and is easily capable of growing from a total of $216 million this year, to $2,201 million in 2005, and $ 5,495 million by 2007.

The report - Broadband Wireless LAN: Public Space; Last Mile; Unlicensed Spectrum is endorsed by the US based WCA (Wireless Communications Association), and the European based BWA (Broadband Wireless Association). Full details from Juniper's web site.