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The End of WiFi Hotspots?


Johan Bergendahl, a senior exec with Swedish mobile phone giant Ericsson, has come out and said what I’ve been saying for years, that WiFi will shortly be replaced by cell phone broadband technologies such as HSPA and beyond. It’s really a no-brainer. WiFi is an incredibly frustrating technology once you start moving away from a limited number of environments like airports, offices and home networks. Try getting a WiFi signal in a car on a motorway for example.

At the end of the day, all people want is high speed Internet access wherever they are, in a plane, on a train, in a car, in a canyon, down a village sidestreet. WiFi will never be able to deliver that kind of ubiquity, but HSDPA is already proving that it can. And with prices dropping significantly, it is just about the time for mobile broadband to take over. Watch that space!

 “Hotspots at places like Starbucks are becoming the telephone boxes of the broadband era,” claimed Ericsson’s chief marketing officer Johan Bergendahl, speaking to delegates at the European Computer Audit, Control and Security Conference in Stockholm.


  • I think it is premature to predict the end of wi-fi, it depends on pricing plans and although HSPA is dropping all the time, free wi-fi beats it on that count. And don’t forget emerging rival systems like WiMax as well. It’s more likely we’ll see the systems coexisting rather than coexisting – free wi-fi in places where it’s able to and people aren’t so concerned about speed and 100% connectivity, and HSPA when quality and speed of connection are guaranteed and people are willing to pay a price.

  • I don’t know Chris, I just keep thinking about those darn Rabbit phones. People just want fast Internet on all the time, everywhere, not restricted to one place or another. I think you’re right though, in that people will use their home or office WiFi in preference to HSPA whenever possible, but the rest of the time, it’ll be mobile mobile mobile broadband. :-)

  • A SIP based VoIP account makes all your predictions for the future a bit irrevelant. The type of Internet connection really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you have the connection in the first place. For example, I have a SIP VoIP account now and it doesn’t matter if I make a call using my home network using a Sipura wired connection, my home based wireless connection or my Nokia E65 using the open wireless access point at the mall where I do my shopping. What matters to me the most is that my connection is FREE and my connection is convenient not the method by which I connect. Why worry about the future when you can have most of it now?

  • Karl, I’m not talking about the ‘type’ of connection, I’m talking about the ubiquity of the connection. There’s a very important distinction involved, and it’s got nothing to do with the applications and everything to do with truly global access at mb/s speeds.

  • My Friend, you are SO wrong.
    First, in terms of capacity, a low cost router provides more broadband than a Cell, albeit as a very limited range. BUT the growth of wifi routers in urban areas is so rapid, and so organic (meaning more and more WiFi gets deployed where people are most likely to consume it) that in many areas today the coverage is nearly full.
    Just look at a few major cities on wefi.com/maps.
    It is true that Cells are more reliable and have a greater range. Which is all fine for voice. But just imagine, even in a city fully deployed with 3G, that a group of 10-20 people in a particular area (like a mall or a campus) all connect to the Internet and watch Youtube videos over their 3G data plan. The call will practically suffocate. Now imagine there are 3-4 WiFi routers in the same area, at a cost of $20-$30 apiece. If all the people connect over WiFi, they’ll all get a great service.
    Cellular operators have no way to increase the capacity other than stuffing the city with more antennas – millions of dollars to invest.

    The reality is very simple – we are going to have an ecosystem whereby Cells and WiFi coexist, and most broadband Internet access from mobile devices will go through WiFi.

  • Yeah sorry Amit, but I call nonsense on that. City coverage is almost FULL? You’re kidding right? :-) Having a few thousand hotspots in an urban area of any size is literally a drop in the bucket, not to mention lack of WiFi coverage when you’ve travelling in a car or other vehicle.

    As for the constraints on the backhaul, well that’s already being dealt with by the service providers, and we can expect that to continue in the forseeable future.

    There will be a small overlap between WiFi and mobile broadband (most notably as I said before with WiFi being the service of choice in the office and home and perhaps airport type environments) but the rest will be mobile bb tech.

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