More than two-thirds of the world's Wi-Fi hotspots are in the Asia-Pacific region, partly because of huge deployments by mobile operators in China, and the number of hotspots worldwide is expected to more than double by 2018.
There were 4.2 million hotspots by the end of 2013, with 68.6 percent of them in Asia-Pacific, ABI Research said in a report published Thursday. ABI expects the worldwide total to hit 10.5 million by 2018. Those rollouts will be driven by growing demand for mobile data, ABI said.
Wi-Fi can deliver fast wireless data without using scarce and expensive licensed frequencies, so carriers deploy it to beef up their cellular networks and wired service providers use it to get into mobile. Wi-Fi specialists such as Fon are also in the game, building their own hotspots and providing access to those built by others. Consumers benefit because their data use on Wi-Fi typically doesn't count against monthly limits.
China, already the world's largest mobile market and one where new cellular spectrum licenses have sometimes been long in coming, has embraced Wi-Fi in a big way. China has about 620,000 hotspots, including 420,000 deployed by China Mobile, 128,000 by China Telecom, and 72,000 by China Unicom, ABI said.
Latin America is the second most wired region for Wi-Fi hotspots, with 12.3 percent of the world's total, the report says. One big player there is the cellular carrier Oi, which has already completed a rollout of 500,000 hotspots in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Meanwhile, at the end of last year Europe had 9.0 percent of the globe's hotspots, North America had 8.7 percent and the Middle East and Africa region had 1.4 percent, ABI said.
ABI's hotspot growth forecast comes out to an average of 15 percent per year. That will help to absorb a dramatic increase in data traffic going over mobile networks, rising from 23,000 petabytes last year to 190,000 petabytes in 2018, the company said.