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Wi-fi no competition for 2.5G or 3G
Posted on 18-Jul-2003 23:46 | Tags Filed under: News

"Industry analysts forecast spectacular growth for public wireless LANs, also known as Wi-Fi hot spots. Some proponents go even further, suggesting Wi-Fi hot spots spell doom for mobile phone operators' third-generation wireless technologies.

There are so many things wrong with this thinking I hardly know where to start. There is a niche market for Wi-Fi hot spots in airports, hotels and convention centers. But for a host of sociological, technological and business-model reasons, Wi-Fi hot spots are not a viable substitute for 3G mobile phone networks.

When Wi-Fi advocates assure users they will never be more than a 5-minute drive from the nearest hot spot, it's like telling them to throw away their mobile phones and go back to using pay phones. They forget the greatest benefit of wireless is freedom of movement."

And then he continues:

"With today's WLAN technology, more than 700 Wi-Fi hot spots would be required to cover the same area as one mobile phone base station. Assume a nationwide mobile phone network consists of 10,000 base stations. It would take 7 million Wi-Fi hot spots to provide the same coverage. The equipment costs might be comparable, but the back-haul costs for 7 million Wi-Fi hot spots would be astronomical."

Those are very interesting comments. These technologies are aimed at different users, and the hype around wi-fi is very strong. Hardware and software makers, hot-spot operators, all of them of course want a share in the market. But John Doe is not the potential user, and mobile cell towers are easier to implement and cover an area far bigger than a hotspot can do. Stop someone on the street and ask about mobile phone, hotspot, wi-fi and the answers will probably be "What?".

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