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Europe falling behind US and Asia on free public wi-fi

Thursday, December 4th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

Europe is lagging behind the US and Asia when it comes to public wi-fi, according to a senior figure from the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

Ton Brand, a senior marketing director at the WBA told Cable.co.uk that the sheer number of competing operators in so many different countries in Europe meant that the rollout of wi-fi takes longer than in the US or parts of Asia.

Mr Brand's comments come as the WBA announced the findings of its annual report in the wi-fi hotspot market compiled by global research company Maravedis-Rethink.

The WBA's annual report, which surveyed 210 respondents in the third quarter of this year, found that customer experience was a key driver for carrier wi-fi investment, with 70% naming it as a key motivation.

The survey also highlighted a shift in attitude towards wi-fi, with 56.7% - the largest figure ever seen in the annual survey - saying they were more confident about investing in public Wi-Fi than they had been a year ago.

Of the 210 respondents, 45% were operators, with other significant groups including wi-fi equipment and device vendors. The majority of responses came from North America (39%) and Europe (26%), followed by Asia-Pacific (19%).

Asked about the global development of wi-fi, Mr Brand said: "I think it's fair enough to say that Asia and the US are ahead of the rest.

"Certainly parts of Asia - you can't generalise Asia of course - but Japan, Korea, China, they're kind of ahead of the bunch as you would expect because they are always ahead of the bunch when it comes down to new technology."

He said the U.S. was also "ahead of the bunch" because of its competitive environment.

"There's only three or four operators and also three or four major cable operators in a very, very large country.

"In Europe it's different because you've got three or four carriers per country, and there's a lot of countries, so it takes a lot of operators. It takes more time in all aspects of that.

"Certainly if you look at the cable operators like Liberty Global in Europe they have a very aggressive strategy to roll out wi-fi in European countries,

"So I think catch-up mode is happening in Europe right now, but they are still behind Asia and the US."

Founded in 2003, the WBA aims to secure an outstanding user experience through the global deployment of next generation wi-fi.

Its membership includes fixed operators such as BT, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as mobile operator groups and leading technology companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Huawei and Intel.

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