The number of public Wi-Fi hotspots is set to increase rapidly over the next four years, according to new research by iPass.
Based on data collected by analysts Maravedis Rethink, the report indicates that the number of hotspots deployed worldwide is set to grow from 47.7 million to more than 340 million by 2018, nearly one Wi-Fi hotspot for every 20 people on earth.
The study also revealed that Europe dominates the world stage currently with 50 per cent of the global Wi-Fi real estate, but Asia is expected to emerge in first place in the next four years.
Evan Kaplan, president and CEO of iPass, said that Wi-Fi is now seen as an essential utility, "just like water or electricity."
"Most of the devices we use are Wi-Fi only and even on the most advanced 4G handsets, 78 per cent of data goes over Wi-Fi. Simply put, it's the network of choice for consumers and soon they'll be able to roam this alternative network of millions of hotspots."
Some of the growth will be provided by the increasing number of mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, with availability on planes and trains set to increase to 60 per cent and 11 per cent respectively by 2018.
However, the biggest expansion in Wi-Fi access will take the form of community "homespot" public hotspots, which will rise from less than 40 million today to more than 325 million.
The research also shed light on the impact Wi-Fi is having on businesses as well as consumers. 50 per cent of all commercial hotspots are now controlled by brands whose core business is not telecommunications.
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Kaplan explained that the growing global Wi-Fi network is enabling a new breed of Wi-Fi provider to emerge, as power shifts from traditional telcos to smaller business owners across a range of industries.