Wireless Access On the Move

Several times each week I venture out to my local hotspot where I can gain Internet access via my wireless network card. There is trend developing that could ultimately impact the current providers of Internet services such as AOL, Earthlink, and others.

 I remember back in the early 90s when the Internet began to gain in popularity. People used to surf the net via dial up, which was often slow and cumbersome given the size of some of the data transfers. And while dial up is still used by many Internet users, it is quickly becoming archaic. The files of today including online video and other streaming medias, requires faster connections and this is achieved through high speed broadband services.

 Now there is a rapidly growing trend towards wireless Internet connections, which made surfing the Web and portability more mainstream. We are seeing the development of wireless hotpots engulf not only coffee shops and other establishments, but we are also seeing the establishment of wide scale wireless networks span across major areas of cities. For the consumer, it means added portability and the ability to access the Internet more often. For those working in jobs that are mainly out of the office, the emerging trend of wireless networks makes sense.

 Major U.S. cities such as Philadelphia, Houston and New Orleans are already offering free wireless access to anyone with a wireless network card. And in Annapolis, Maryland, a free public WiFi hotspot will be launched and backed by corporate sponsorship and not taxpayer’s dollars.

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 According to Jupiter Research, in its report “Public Wi-Fi: Capturing Paying Customers in an Increasingly Competitive Space,” 58% of consumers will use hotpots only when free of charge. Also, the adoption of public WiFi surged from 14% to 20% from 2004 to 2005. The report also suggested that WiFi service providers should try to attract mobile professionals and home wireless network owners.

 The report should be a real concern for those in the ISP (Internet Service Provider) area. The reality is consumers are going to demand more portability via wireless hotpots. And, as cities develop wide hotspot coverage, it will impact dial up and even high-speed at home services. In cities where the access is free or cheap, the major ISPs such as AOL and Earthlink will be hurt.

 I know for myself, I’m looking forward to the day when I can surf anywhere in the city and at a low cost relative to what I’m currently shelling out each month.