Frost & Sullivan’s Analysis Of The European WLAN Hotspots Market
35,000 European Wi-Fi Hotspots In Place By 2006
The European WLAN public access hotspots market is starting to look like a hype bubble. Despite widespread failure to address the technical and business challenges that need to be overcome before the market can truly flourish, many players are viewing WLAN hotspots as an exciting business opportunity, with wide-ranging business models being debated.
At present, the market is highly fragmented with many different players each staking their claim to be a major force in the market. It is clear that not all of these market participants can survive in the long run, but many players feel that even a short-term gain renders market entry attractive. Frost & Sullivan believes that the consolidation has already begun and that the number of service providers in this market will decline as they are absorbed by larger organisations with more resources.
It is clear that a limited investment can yield significant revenue generation opportunities in the European WLAN hotspots market. However, this can only be achieved by selecting the most appropriate business models. The limited success of commercial services in North America has already demonstrated that the right mix of customer segmentation, location, pricing and service offering needs to be found.
The enterprise market, with its high penetration of notebook PCs and growing demand for flexible access to network services, is of pivotal importance to the WLAN industry. However, WLAN is also growing in popularity in vertical markets such as transportation, distribution, medical, public access networks and home environments.
Frost & Sullivan expects total subscription revenues in the European WLAN hotspots market to rise from around EUR 18 million in 2002 to in excess of EUR 1 billion by the end of 2006.
The rollout will be largely driven by the weight of force placed behind the market by the incumbent fixed and wireless operators, as it is these players who have the resources to drive large-scale implementations.
Independent service providers are investing great efforts into driving the early market and forcing larger players to make their moves, but few of them have the resources or skills base to create large scale networks or initiate the inter-network roaming initiatives that will be crucial to the key business clients.
The adoption of Wireless LAN services in Europe is being led by the Scandinavia region, first and foremost spearheaded by SoneraTelia’s Telia HomeRun and Sonera wGate services. Other pioneering companies in this marketplace include BT Openzone, T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom), and Swisscom.
Maximising footprint by signing up as many locations as possible, as well as selecting the most appropriate locations for hotspots (most importantly locations frequented by business travellers, the market’s most lucrative target audience), is highlighted by Frost & Sullivan’s study as a critical success factor for operators looking to develop commercial services.
On the subject of GSM roaming on all enabled hotspots worldwide, Frost & Sullivan notes that it is of important for service providers to be able to provide seamless coverage. The relative power and positioning of the different operators will determine the nature of the roaming agreements and the revenue sharing agreements that they have in place.
One of the biggest issues for hotspot operators is maintaining a decent level of service. Where hotspot services are complementary or free of charge, the user cannot expect particularly high levels of reliability. However, if an end-user is paying for a service they will expect to be able to use the service for the duration they are being charged for. This is a major challenge for the service provider, given that there are still doubts surrounding the reliability of most WLAN equipment.
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