Business use of Wi-Fi hotspots increases by 46%

iPass released the latest edition of the iPass Mobile Broadband Index, which tracks the wireless use patterns of mobile workers around the world. The report shows worldwide business use of iPass Wi-Fi hotspots increased by 46% from the first half of 2007 to the first half of 2008 and that users of 2.5G and 3G mobile broadband technologies in the US increased their data traffic in the second quarter of the year by 59% between 2007 and 2008. Other key findings include rapid growth of Wi-Fi in Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, and the emergence of hotels, restaurants, train stations and public places as high-growth venues.

Europe passes North America in Wi-Fi use

For the first time, European business use of Wi-Fi hotspots eclipsed North America in the first half of 2008. Europe grew its use 89% year over year and now accounts for 47% of global use, up from 36% in 1H 2007. In fact, nearly 70% of the growth in global Wi-Fi came from Europe and seven of the top ten countries in the world are in Europe.

North America grew 17% year over year and now accounts for 45% of usage, down from 56% the year before, while Asia Pacific grew by 54% to hold steady at 6% of worldwide share. Latin America and the remaining world regions grew at 98% and 76% respectively but each only accounts for 1% of global usage.

There were several shifts among top cities that reflected global Wi-Fi usage trends. London remains the top city for business users of Wi-Fi, although high growth in Singapore and Tokyo, which came in at number two and three respectively, cut into its lead. Chicago replaced New York as the top US city, and was fifth in the world. The only countries with multiple cities in the Top 10 were the US, with Chicago, Seattle, New York, Houston and San Francisco; and Germany, where Munich doubled and Bonn quadrupled its Wi-Fi usage over the past year.

Inter-city travel venues remain the most popular, accounting for nearly three quarters of sessions globally. Airports are still on top with 40% of overall sessions and grew by 28% year over year. Hotels grew by 66% and now account for more than 34% of global share. As demonstrated in earlier indexes, hotel sessions were much longer than the average, at 167 minutes per session, followed by around an hour for cafes, restaurants and other retail locations, and only 40 minutes for airports.

Wi-Fi in train stations – full steam ahead

Commuter transit locations, such as train stations and ferries, demonstrated extremely strong growth of 79% year on year, as Wi-Fi expands into these well-frequented venues around the world. London city train stations led the way with the most number of Wi-Fi sessions, followed by the Japan Rail train network. A surprise was the Seattle-area Washington State Ferry system, which came in third, ahead of the popular Heathrow Express airport trains that connect London with the airport.

For road warriors and other locally mobile workers, the most dramatic growth came in hotspots located in public venues such as business parks, payphones and city centers. While still small in total, Wi-Fi use in public locations more than tripled and was marked by average session lengths of nearly three hours. Restaurants continue to increase in popularity, and with use more than doubling they now account for 5% of the worldwide usage. While cafes were still easily the largest retail category, their annual growth slowed to 18%, perhaps signaling some saturation of this early segment for Wi-Fi hotspots.

3G US mobile broadband use up 59%

Based on data sampled from thousands of iPass Mobile Office enterprise end-users in the US, per-user utilization of mobile broadband grew by 59% from Q2 2007 to Q2 2008, settling at an average of 211 MB per user per month. Interestingly, among long-time users, monthly 3G data traffic was relatively flat over the past year at around 200 MB per month, indicating that the usage tends to ramp up during the first six to twelve months of 3G adoption before reaching a plateau.

Very heavy users accounted for a disproportionate amount of the data traffic growth, with the top 10% of users accounting for half of the overall usage growth. This may indicate a growing tendency for a small slice of the market to rely on 3G for all remote access (for example, at home or in a hotel) as opposed to true on-the-go usage. The percentage of users with over 1 GB of traffic per month more than doubled from Q2 2007 (1.2% of all users) to Q2 2008 (2.8%). In contrast, median mobile broadband usage remained relatively unchanged, moving from 96 MB per month in Q2 2007 to 93 MB per month in Q2 2008.

Not surprisingly, the data indicates that 3G network coverage in the US has continued to mature. In Q1 2007 only 35% of users were able to rely solely on 3G throughout a given month with the remainder forced to fall back on slower 2.5G technology occasionally. By Q2 2008 the number of 3G-only users had risen to 53%.

The iPass Mobile Broadband Index lists H1 2008 statistics for global Wi-Fi hotspot and usage of 2.5G and 3G mobile broadband in the US. The iPass Mobile Broadband Index summarizes internal data collected by iPass and is intended to represent usage behavior across its base of more than 3,500 enterprise customers, including more than 400 of the Forbes Global 2000.

Don't miss